OTTAWA, May 8 – The Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper today to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv is in Canada for a ten-day visitation of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy (Diocese) of Toronto.
The Major Archbishop told the Prime Minister that his Church has consistently called for peace and reconciliation in Ukraine. However, the aggression by representatives of the Russian Federation has undermined the Church’s efforts to maintain calm. “There was no tension between Ukrainians and Russians in Ukraine until the Russian government annexed Crimea,” said the 44-year-old Primate of the five-million-strong Church. “It is the illegal actions of the Russian government – following upon years of Kremlin-backed corruption in Kyiv – that have brought strife to the country.”
Archbishop Shevchuk also expressed his conviction that Western countries must show greater resolve in restraining Russia. “We appreciate what has been done – especially by Canada. But time and again, the government of the Russian Federation has shown its unwillingness to abide by international agreements. It pains me to say this, but the Russian government is simply not predictable in its behavior. The sanctions applied thus far have not been adequate.”
The head of the Ukrainian Church noted that his first concern is not about politics, but about people. “Once a foreign power begins to re-draw international borders, people suffer.” He continued, “the only way to bolster peace among peoples is to enable them to live together in multi-ethnic states – not divide them through foreign intervention.” He then noted: “What would happen to Europe – not to mention other continents – if countries started re-drawing borders on the basis of ethno-national background? It’s that approach that led to World War II!”
After the meeting in Prime Minister Harper’s office, Archbishop Shevchuk met with Canada’s Minster of Foreign Affairs, John Baird. He told the Minister that should Russian forces be allowed to disrupt the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, this would show the extent of their anti-democratic spirit. “Why did the Kremlin promote an illegal referendum in Crimea, while attempting to thwart a legal election in the rest of Ukraine? Human dignity is only served when people are allowed to express their will. For decades, the Soviets crushed human dignity by ignoring the people. We do not desire to return to those days.”
During the Soviet period, Amnesty International declared the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to be the largest outlawed religious body in the world. Stalin banned the Church in 1946. Because the UGCC is in union with the Pope of Rome, Russian authorities, whether tsarist or communist, have attempted to destroy the Church which they could not control. In Crimea, Russian authorities have targeted Catholic communities since the Russian takeover of the peninsula.
Source: Ukrainian Canadian Congress; Taras Zalusky, Executive Director (613) 232- 8822 ; [email protected]