RESPONSE TO ARCHBISHOP BARTHOLOMEW'S REMARKS ON UKRAINE
The Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of North and South America Sobornopravna (UAOC-S) welcomes Archbishop Bartholomew's call for unity among the Orthodox so long as the "spiritual sovereignty" and "cultural integrity" of Ukraine is respected. Recently the Greek prelate sent a congratulatory letter to President-elect Viktor Yushchenko while calling disunity among the Orthodox "unacceptable." He alluded to the growing friction between the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches. Ukrainian Orthodoxy has increasingly rejected foreign control.
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep, Vicar General of Government Relations and Public Affairs for the UAOC-S, said "His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyiv Patriarchate, leader of over 30 million worldwide, has been working tirelessly to bring the faithful together. Within Ukraine there will be unity and harmony some day due to the leadership of Our chief shepherd, Patriarch Filaret who is strengthening a national spiritual identity."
Bishop Jesep said, "Archbishop Bartholomew no doubt appreciates that church unity, or at least harmony, can exist if ecclesiastical politics is kept in check. All it takes is a sincere respect for the sovereignty of Europe's second largest nation -- not just on governmental matters, but on spiritual ones as well. That does not exist now. "
He added, "Today a free people have the choice to determine their political destiny as well as their spiritual fate. Ukraine has spoken loudly on both matters."
“Ultimately,” Bishop Jesep added, “whether an organization considers a branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, especially the Kyiv Patriarchate of 30 million, ‘canonical’ is irrelevant. The Ukrainian faithful, including our brothers and sisters in the Byzantine (Greek) Catholic Church, need not ask anyone’s permission on how best to walk with God.”
According to Bishop Jesep, “If Archbishop Bartholomew seeks harmony in the Orthodox family then he must underscore to other branches, especially the Moscow Patriarchate, that Ukraine's spiritual sovereignty, cultural integrity and emerging national consciousness deserves respect.”
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