Den, Kiev, in Russian 24 Oct 03; p 6
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, in English, Oct 28, 2003
The Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is gradually gaining
recognition as the national church, its head, Patriarch Filaret, has said.
He has accused the Ukrainian church subordinated to the Moscow Patriarchate
of becoming more aggressive and inflaming religious tension. Filaret sees no
benefit from unification with the Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
The following is the excerpt from an interview Filaret gave to correspondent
Klara Hudzyk, entitled "Patriarch Filaret on independent church for
independent state", published in the Ukrainian newspaper Den on 24 October;
subheadings have been inserted editorially:
Over the past eight years, the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of
the Kiev Patriarchate, the patriarch of Ukraine and all Russia-Ukraine,
Filaret, has been developing with a firm hand an independent national
Orthodox church, defending the right of the Ukrainian people to such a
church not only from some foreign churches, but also often from their own
authorities. To a considerable extent, thanks to Patriarch Filaret the idea
of Ukrainian autocephaly did not drown in the storms of recent years, and
did not become yet another fiasco of the young state. Here the Kiev
patriarch talks about gains and losses of his eight-year patriarchy.
[Hudzyk] Your Holiness! Eight years have passed since the day when you were
elected patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate
(UOC KP). What changes have taken place in that church since that time? How
have its structures developed? What was the main thing in your judgment?
Progress over past eight years
[Filaret] Eight years ago, just like today, I was faced with the task of
asserting and developing an independent national Ukrainian Orthodox Church
in Ukraine. Fairly significant progress has been made in the church's
development over that time. It can be confidently asserted that the UOC KP
has been validated as a national church. Before 1995, there was still a
question of whether that church should exist or not. Today our church has
become so strong that the question "to be or not to be" is ruled out. It is
truly a national Orthodox Church.
In order to be convinced of this, it is worth looking at specific changes in
the life of our church and compare what there was at the time of my
enthronement in 1995 with what there is today. First, we had only 19
eparchates then, and only in Ukraine; today there are 33, including four
abroad. We have eparchates in every region, and two in some. As for
bishops, before 1995 there were 18 and today - 37.
And as far as church communities are concerned, eight year ago there were a
little over 2,000 of them in the church, whereas now there are over 3,600.
It is noteworthy that the biggest growth in the number of parishes of the KP
is in eastern and central Ukraine. Churches are being actively erected: over
the past eight years, the KP has built several hundred new churches on
Ukrainian territory. This autumn alone I have consecrated four churches.
We are actively engaged in developing spiritual education. Before 1995, the
church had one theological academy and three seminaries. Now there are two
academies - in Kiev and Lviv. We have a theological faculty at Chernivtsi
University and a theological institute in Ivano-Frankivsk, as well as six
theological seminaries. The number of monasteries has increased from 10 to
over 30. They are not large in terms of numbers of inhabitants, but this
depends on the numbers wanting to live there, and there are not that many
today. [Passage omitted: further progress over past eight years]
Among the achievements I also see the fact that despite Moscow's constant
efforts to cut the KP off from the world, we are gradually emerging from
that isolation. Today we have contacts with Constantinople patriarchy and
with the Bulgarian and Macedonian churches. After a break of several years,
we are being invited to international conferences held by the Roman Catholic
Church both in Ukraine and abroad.
Last year I was at a reception at the UNO where Ukraine culture was
demonstrated. So, despite all the efforts of our ill-wishers, the KP is
coming out into the world as a great church of a great country that has to
be reckoned with. [Passage omitted: need to build relations with other
Relations with Ukrainian authorities
[Hudzyk] What is the attitude of the Ukrainian authorities and Ukrainian
society to the Kiev Patriarchate? How has that attitude changed over the
past eight years?
[Filaret] The situation surrounding the church was unfavourable from the
very beginning. You remember the scrimmaging on St Sophia Square [in 1995]?
That was a clear manifestation of the attitude of the authorities to the KP.
More than that, it was an attempt to destroy the KP as a church and to join
it either to the Autocephalous Church or the UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate
The atmosphere has somewhat changed now. Nobody is now dreaming of
the total elimination of the KP; they are even trying to build good
relations with it. However, the authorities are in no way facilitating the
development of the Kiev Patriarchate, quite the contrary - they are
supporting the UOC MP in every way. If there had been an equal attitude to
both churches, our achievements would have been far greater. Now we often
see this picture: when a MP parish wants to transfer to the KP, they "are
not allowed" - local authorities fail to re-register them. But on the whole,
compared with 1995, the situation has somewhat improved.
Moscow Patriarchate becoming more aggressive
[Hudzyk] How has the UOC MP changed over these years? After all, the
existence of such a reality as the Kiev Patriarchate could not have failed
to affect that church.
[Filaret] Of course, there have been changes in the MP. That church has
become more aggressive, which is seen in the numerous violent actions in the
Kiev Pechersk Lavra [Monastery on the Caves, the official residence of the
UOC MP], and also in other regions where they attack KP parishes and inflame
religious enmity, where aggressive sermons are delivered from pulpits. There
is also a total ban on the episcopate and clergy of the MP associating with
the clergy of the KP.
This is a very negative phenomenon - after all, we live in the same country.
Meanwhile, there is a gradual recognition taking place among the clergy of
the UOC MP that the process of forming an independent Ukrainian church is
irreversible. A considerable section of priests and bishops are ready in
their souls to unite with the KP, but are not bold enough to do so. And
precisely because of the position of the authorities, especially local
authorities, because of their sympathy for the UOC MP. Therefore, the
waverers choose a more advantageous and safe path.
Relations with Autocephalous Orthodox Church
[Hudzyk] It is known that the UAOC [Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox
Church] is not going through the best of times: some people even consider
that the church as such does not exist now. Is the KP envisaging unification
with that church?
[Filaret] There was a time when we wanted that unification to take place and
we signed accords with the UAOC leadership in Kiev and Constantinople. But
it did not produce results. So now I don't see any great benefit from
possible unification. After all, there are processes of division,
confrontation and enmity within the UAOC. And I fear that it will all
continue, but on a large scale, after unification with the KP. I also do not
want unification with the UAOC to be short-term. That's not serious.
Incidentally, I want to recall another achievement of the past eight years -
the unity of the Kiev Patriarchate. Before 1995, there were differing trends
here and an internal struggle. There is none of that now. [Passage omitted:
no regrets over past]
Recent years have shown that the idea of an independent UOC is a true one. I
think that even the Moscow church in Ukraine feels that it is here
temporarily and that sooner or later it will have to unite with the Kiev
Patriarchate into a single national church.
Previously they were convinced that nothing would change in Ukraine in the
final analysis - they would "play" at independence and then return to the
Russian empire. Some people still think like that today. But the historical
process is working against them. Just look - they created the CIS, a "paper
empire". I think that the same thing will happen to the SES [single economic
space - economic union with Russia]. What is now happening in the Sea of
Azov [dispute over Tuzla Island] is good evidence of Russia's real
It somehow turns out that everything that Russia does to annex Ukraine only
alienates us from it. They themselves are digging a gulf between Ukraine and
Russia, a gulf that it will later be difficult to overcome. And all their
hopes of subordinating the Ukrainian church are only wishes. It won't
happen. [Passage omitted: support for KP from various political parties]
Amendments to freedom of conscience law
[Hudzyk] How do you view the draft law on amendments to the current law
on freedom of conscience?
[Filaret] Our church views it negatively. The Greek Catholic and Roman
Catholic churches and major Protestant associations share that point of view
as well. We jointly signed an appeal to the president [Leonid Kuchma] and
[Volodymyr Lytvyn] the chairman of the Supreme Council [parliament] against
this bill. Why? Because we see this bill as a time bomb that will inflame
religious enmity in Ukraine on the grounds of church property.
Giving a church the rights of a legal entity means the right to ownership of
property and land. As a result, the Moscow Patriarchate will get full
ownership of church property on the territory of Ukraine. Regardless of the
will of believers. Both of our glorious lavras [major monasteries] will also
become the property of the Moscow Patriarchate. [Passage omitted: struggle
for property and land already in progress at Pochayiv lavra]
Meanwhile, it has long been known that whoever is in possession of these two
lavras is in possession of the soul of the Ukrainian people. Among other
things, the struggle for the lavras is part of Russia's overall policy with
regard to Ukraine. So we are against the passing of this bill at this stage.
The church has the right to be a legal entity, but not in conditions of a
divided Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Let the church first unite and become fully
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