Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Ebola outbreak worsens amid more pleas for aid

Geneva, Switzerland, Aug 31, 2014 / 04:44 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The continuing spread of the Ebola outbreak in Africa is putting more lives at risk, while containment efforts and the flight of vital workers have endangered food supplies and medical care…

Greek Catholics face hostility amid unrest in Ukraine

Rome, Italy, Aug 29, 2014 / 05:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church called for peace amid escalating conflict with pro-Russian separatists, stating that the Church there is facing increased persecution as fighting goes on.

“Even if it’s not announced – it seems like a war against Ukraine,” Monsignor Dionisio Lachovicz told CNA Aug. 28. “I believe that the only hope is in the Lord, therefore we call the whole world to pray for peace.”

Msgr. Lachovicz, apostolic visitor for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Italy and in Spain, explained that in the midst of rising tensions between the Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists “a new persecution is being waged against the Greek Catholics located in the territories in Russian hands.”

These are, he clarified, the areas of “Crimea and in the territories where the Russia-friendly ‘separatists’ are seeking to impose their power.”

In Donetsk, a large city in Eastern Ukraine, “the bishop’s residence has been sacked and sealed. The cathedral’s land has been struck by separatist rockets. The bishops and almost all of the Greek-Catholics priests have been forced to leave the area of Donetsk,” the bishop explained.

“The Church has been desecrated by the rebels who blackmail the clergy, threatening reprisals on the parishioners. And only some days ago the monastery of the Servants of God was occupied by separatists.”

According to BBC News, nearly 2,600 people have been killed since April, when Russia’s annexation of Crimea prompted rebels to take over large parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Heavy fighting continues near Ukraine’s strategic Mariupol port, which lays off the Azov Sea. Rebel forces are currently attempting to capture the city, but Ukrainian government troops are holding ground.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko met Aug. 26 to discuss the ongoing crisis, shaking hands and leaving with Poroshenko’s assurance that a new “roadmap” to peace would be laid out.

However tensions skyrocketed when at least 1,000 Russian troops entered Ukraine two days later, BBC reports, prompting an Aug. 29 emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to address the situation.

“If the Russian Orthodox Church together with all of the Churches in the Ukraine joined together in the name of love in the prayer of Jesus ‘that all may be one’ to dialogue, then they would reach a much more realistic ‘roadmap,’” Msgr. Lachovicz explained.

He lamented the fact that rather than unifying the churches after past quarrels, the current situation is being used to cause greater division, stating that during the 4th European forum for Orthodox-Catholic dialogue last June, the metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, president of the Department for external ecclesiastical relations of the Patriarchate of Moscow, “without any documented confirmed accused the Greek Catholic Church ‘in the destructive role in the Ukraine crisis.’”

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has sent a letter “to all of the heads of the Orthodox Churches and to different European political organisms with similar accusations.”

If all sides to the conflict could truly reach an agreement, they “would confirm the simple determination of Pope Francis” that “Nothing is lost with peace,” the bishop observed.

“The attention of Pope Francis to the situation in the Ukraine has always been very great and his messages and prayers, I believe, that soon they will overcome every evil that oppresses the Ukrainian land.”

Explaining how the Ukrainian people as a whole are grateful to Pope Francis, Msgr. Lachovicz also offered special thanks to Mons. Thomas E. Gullickson, apostolic nuncio in Ukraine, who’s “messages and appeals are very present and concrete.”

“I would like to invite everyone to pray for peace along with the Holy Father,” the bishop said, “because to make peace requires courage, much more so than to make war.”

“Courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict; yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiation and no to hostility, yes to the observance of pacts and no to provocations; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity.”

“This is the heartfelt appeal that Pope Francis has addressed to all the Churches of the world.”

Choice of new Madrid archbishop marks new course for Spain’s bishops

Madrid, Spain, Aug 29, 2014 / 04:27 pm (CNA).- The appointment of Carlos Osoro Sierra as the new Archbishop of Madrid is another step forward in the renewal of the ranks of the Spanish bishops that at the same time raises expectations for Curia reform….

Jerusalem priest to Israel, Palestine: Humanize one another

Rome, Italy, Aug 29, 2014 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following the agreement of an indefinite ceasefire in Gaza earlier this week, a key priest in Jerusalem says the only way for it to last is if both sides overcome dehumanizing prejudices of the other.

“Until there is a real dialogue that starts where the two sides see the other side in its full human reality, we can’t really talk about the beginning of a process that will lead us to peace,” Father Neuhaus told CNA Aug. 28.

One of the patriarchal vicars of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Fr. Neuhaus is also responsible for Hebrew speaking Catholics in his diocese and a large population of migrant workers and asylum seekers in the country.

The long-term ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip was negotiated by Egypt, and took effect at 7 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) Tuesday, ending seven weeks of fighting which has left more than 2,200 people dead, most of them Palestinians.

According BBC News, Palestinian officials stated that the ceasefire proposal called for an indefinite end to hostilities, an immediate opening of Gaza’s access to Israel and Egypt, and an extension of the area’s Mediterranean fishing zone.

The agency reports that immediately Israel was to end its blockade of Gaza in order to allow aid and building materials in. Further discussion on issues of greater tension, such as Israel’s call for a disarming of militant groups in Gaza, and the release of Hamas prisoners in the West Bank, are set to begin in Cairo within a month.

Despite the great feeling of relief on both sides to have an end to the last 50 days of intense fighting in Gaza – which he expects will take roughly 15 years to fully repair – Fr. Neuhaus said that now begins the great task of Israelis and Palestinians in learning to view each other as neighbors rather than enemies.

The question of putting themselves in each other’s shoes is “a very, very difficult question and perhaps the most difficult question we face,” he said.

In order to come to a position in which Israelis and Palestinians can really speak to one another, we “need a real lesson in language where we will cease to use with such ease the terms that confine the other in an almost satanic role.”

Drawing attention to rapid resolution to past conflicts in South Africa, Fr. Neuhaus stated that although there is still a long way to go for Israel and Palestine, it doesn’t necessarily mean a “long distance to travel in time.”

“What we need – and this we need desperately – are leaders who are creative enough to propose meaningful discourse to those people who are living in these situations so that they can open their eyes and open their ears and take in the reality of the other.”

However, currently “We live in a society based on the building of walls: the walls that you see and the walls that cannot be seen, which are probably even higher in the hearts of the people who live there,” he said, noting that “Behind those walls is ‘another’ that I don’t want to see.”

Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land in May “was a moment of great triumph of this discourse” of humanization, Fr. Neuhaus observed, and pointed to the June invocation for peace held in the Vatican with the Pope, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, and the Israeli and Palestinian presidents as a further step forward.

Holding this prayer inside the Vatican was as if the Pope were saying to the presidents, “Please, put yourselves before God. Put yourselves before God as you speak, as you act towards the other and see that as God’s children God has no favorites,” he continued.

“God loves all of God’s children. And it is God who has planted these children right in this land, so they need to find ways to relate to one another.”

As for the length of this latest ceasefire, Fr. Neuhaus explained that although he is not “not a prophet so I cannot tell how long it will last,” his is “a person of prayer and I pray that it lasts.”

“I pray that it lasts so that people can put their lives together. I pray that it lasts so that people can get some critical perspective on the behavior of their governments on both sides that led us into the escalated violence we’ve just been through. I hope it lasts long enough so that children can get enough sleep and start slowly to get back to the normal life of a child.”

“I think it’s very, very important that we also begin to speak a language of hope,” the priest reflected.

Drawing attention to the important role of the Church in fostering this dialogue, he stated that she “does speak and needs to speak even louder a language of possibilities and alternatives.”

She needs to speak “of a prophetic vision for what the Holy Land could be if Jews, Christians and Muslims, if Palestinians and Israelis really could live together and build up that land as a blessing for one and all.”

Italian bishop says Catholics in irregular relationships welcome in Church

Rome, Italy, Aug 29, 2014 / 11:55 am (CNA).- Those who are in irregular marital situations cannot receive Holy Communion but are still Christian faithful and “must feel at home” in Catholic churches, a leading Italian bishop has said.

Bishop Nunzio Galantino of Cassano all’Jonio told a national liturgical gathering of the Center of Liturgical Action Aug. 27 in Orvieto, Italy that Holy Communion is “the sacramental act that excellently expresses the union with Christ and the Church.”

The bishop, who serves as secretary general of the Italian bishops’ conference, noted Catholic teaching that those in “an irregular marital situation” cannot receive Holy Communion “because of their condition.”

He discussed how people in irregular relationships can feel this discipline as “very severe, not inclusive” and even “punitive” towards “the difficulties of marital life” or towards their choice to break up a relationship.

“Often many people perceive the Church’s attitude as more severe than what it actually is, since they feel the fact they are not admitted to Sacraments as an exclusion from ecclesiastical life,” the bishop said.

He said that Catholics should recognize that some of the faithful are excessively harsh towards those in irregular relationships and they erroneously see the Church’s discipline “as an exclusion of their brothers and sisters.” He said that some of the faithful sometimes look at people in irregular relationships “with a glance full of prejudice, as if their faith and their belonging to the Church was compromised.”

“In addition to the burden of their non-admission to the sacraments, there is an unjustified de facto discrimination towards them, as an added price to pay.”

“Even these people are Christian faithful, so they are part of the Church and in the Eucharistic assembly they are and they must feel at home,” the bishop said.

One page of the bishop’s 16-page speech addressed those in irregular marital relationships who cannot receive Communion. His broader remarks dealt with nurturing “a culture of mercy” in many areas for immigrants, the disabled, and the poor.

Bishop Galantino said that current pastoral guidelines do not put in discussion Church doctrine and discipline that instruct those in irregular marital relationships to refrain from Holy Communion. Rather, they reaffirm the church membership of those in irregular relationships and suggest for them “paths of ecclesial life” and liturgical participation even though they cannot receive Holy Communion.

Bishop Galantino has caused controversy with some of his previous remarks.

In a May interview he appeared to denigrate pro-life witness outside of abortion clinics, saying “I don’t identify with the expressionless person who stands outside the abortion clinic reciting their rosary, but with young people, who are still against this practice, but are instead fighting for quality of life, their health, their right to work.”

The bishop was criticized for his claim that Catholics “have concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia.” He also attracted criticism for his statement that he hoped the Catholic Church in Italy will be “able to listen without any taboo to the arguments in favor of married priests, the Eucharist for the divorced, and homosexuality.”

Catholic couple marks 25th wedding anniversary at Rimini Meeting

Rimini, Italy, Aug 28, 2014 / 08:04 pm (CNA).- An Italian couple celebrating their 25th anniversary of marriage by volunteering at the Rimini Meeting, a major Catholic event, aimed to reflect the beauty of their faith and to thank God for their love.

Muslim scholar decries violence: ‘I am a Nazarene, too’

Rimini, Italy, Aug 28, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Referring to the label “Nazarene” marked on houses of Christians in Iraq by the militant Islamic State, a Muslim scholar also called himself Nazarene in solidarity – maintaining that many people in the Muslim community are identifying with Christians as well.

“Millions of Muslims have used the Arab letter ‘nun,’ or ‘n,’ which stands for Nazarene, as their profile picture in Facebook and Twitter, thus identifying themselves with the testimony Christians have given in Iraq,” Wael Farouq told CNA Aug. 25.

A professor of Arabic language at the American University of Cairo, Egypt, Farouq was among the 200 speakers scheduled the Annual Meeting of the ecclesiastical movement Communion and Liberation, which takes place in the Italian town of Rimini Aug. 24-29.

A major events with over 100 conferences, 17 shows, 14 exhibitions and 10 sporting events, this year’s meeting holds the theme: “Towards the peripheries of world and existence.”

Addressing the Christian plight in Iraq, Farouq stressed that “terrorists and criminal are not the main characters of Iraqi scenario,” since the real “heroes are those who have chosen to stay faithful to their faith and to abandon everything they have to keep their faith.”

A declaration issued by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Aug. 11 asked religious leaders – Muslims in particular – to take a strong stand against acts that offend God as well as humanity, and to nurture a culture of peace.

Farouq dismissed claims that “the Muslim world is silent about what is happening in Iraq. Many religious leaders have condemned what is happening.”

For example, “the Grand Mufti of Egypt and even orthodox mufti like the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia,” said, adding that “what is happening is the enemy number one for Islam.”

The ISNA – Islamic Society of North America – and the Center for American-Islamic Relations have also strongly condemned the actions of the militant Islamic State.

“Beyond political and religious leaders, what is more important to me is the reaction of ordinary people,” Farouq reflected.

According to him, “it is happening for the first time that interreligious dialogue start from a form of identification with the other,” as happening today while “ordinary people, millions of Muslims are identifying with Christians.”

Despite this, Farouq explains that “terrorists are not, however, isolated,” since in several countries there are “terroristic groups that use religion to justify their violence,” and this does not happen by chance.

“As a Muslim, and also as a Muslim scholar I must say that the Islamic thought, the Islamic practice today needs a deep reform to the conception of every Muslim that violence is against the principles of our religion. A reform for the Islamic world is needed,” Farouq maintained.

On the other hand, he says that terrorists gain the sympathies of some because of the extreme secularism and double standard of the Western world.

“Even the Western world is responsible of what is happening in Iraq,” Farouq underscored.

“These terrorist groups are receiving every day three million dollars from Western companies who buy oil in the black market. They are armed by Western companies,” he said.

According to Farouq, this is not something “related to Islam or the Middle East. It should be a problem for all of us, for all the world. Everybody is part of the problem for what is going in Iraq.”

Catholics denounce use of hashtags for ‘paramilitary warfare’

Rome, Italy, Aug 28, 2014 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Reacting to an internet campaign launched by ISIS threatening the life of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff, Catholic leaders stressed that evil is not the final verdict and encouraged faithful to adhere to Christ.

“We oppose the genocide with the beauty of witness. In front of the superficiality of political leaders we propose actions, petitions, to invoke popular commitment to the chaotic succession of news we are striving to pray for ourselves, for the whole world,” Luca Volonte, president and founder of Catholic organization Novae Terrae, told CNA Aug. 26.

“The world and reality, even the most terrible, changes from our adherence to Christ. This certainty must always accompany us,” he said, “especially in the ‘vast sea’ of the mass media and social network, above all now that this ‘sea’ is plagued by terrible corsairs and pirates.”

According to New York-based news agency Vocativ, the hashtag “#StevensHeadInObamasHands” was issued by ISIS over the weekend, and is part of a calculated campaign that was launched in Arabic in an online forum called al-Manbar, where ISIS affiliates often post publications and instructions.

A directive for the campaign appeared Sunday morning at 7 a.m. Eastern time, dictating that it be launched exactly one hour later.

Through the social media initiative ISIS has rallied their supporters on Twitter and Facebook to both create public pressure on president Obama and to instill fear in the American public until their demands are met.

Coming just one week after the chilling video entitled “A Message to America” was posted to YouTube showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, the campaign follows a threat made to President Obama at the end of the video, stating that “his next move” would decide Sotloff’s fate.

“From our point of view as Christians, I think that we have a dual duty,” Volonte observed, explaining that “The first is to inform, to verify the sources with particular attention in these cases.”

“The second, as always for us Christians and Catholics in particular, is to not determine ourselves by evil.”

Volonte went on to emphasize how atrocities such as this campaign, which are “a sign of absolute evil,” can’t be “the only news because also thanks to it we must search for the beautiful and true, in this case of the humble and heroic martyrdom of Christians in Iraq.”

“The news, even the most terrible that comes to us and affects us through the internet or social media, should be for us an occasion to propose the good, true and beautiful.”

Kidnapped in Aleppo last year, the 31-year-old Sotloff wrote for several publications, including Time and Foreign Policy. He had been unaccounted for until his appearance in the final seconds of the video portraying Foley’s execution last week.

Vocativ reports that in one forum post ISIS provided 13 pre-formulated phrases for their non-English speakers to be published and tweeted using the #StevensHeadInObamasHands hashtag, and offered a variety of images relating to the threat.

Tweets for the campaign are frequently cross-tagged with other popular hashtags so that they pop up in conversations happening in certain demographics, the agency states.

As an example, the agency cited numerous images they saw where the hashtag appeared alongside others relating to this weekend’s earthquake in California, as well as others tagged with #AskRicky, which often refers to teen YouTube star Ricky Dillon – who has over 1.6 million YouTube followers and similar numbers on Twitter and Instagram.

Speaking on the jihadist’s use of social media to promote their terror campaign, Benjamin Harnwell, founder of the Catholic Dignitatis Humanae Institute, prayed for Sotloff’s “safe delivery.”

He told CNA Aug. 26 that “Sadly his name currently stands to be associated with the first case of terrorism being waged through the new ‘social media.’”

“Not the actual terrorism in itself, but the most insidious part of it: the threat of violence. Hashtags deployed as paramilitary warfare.”

Social media outlets aid the terrorists’ agenda “the same way as a dry haystack lends itself to a flame,” he said, due to their immediacy, anonymity and their “potential for instantaneous exponential multiplication of communication.”

“But there is no reason this transmission must all be one way. Those who value liberty can have the resolve to use their ‘silent majority’ status to be a little less silent.”

The same social media sites being used to promote the gruesome campaign can also be employed “to lobby those in government to affirm their resolve in never appeasing terrorism,” Harnwell said.

“My belief is that even if some dynamics of contemporary terrorism have adapted, the accidentals, if I can put it like that; the underlying substance remains the grubby same, and therefore our response in the face of the threat of violence must be what it has always been. We do not negotiate with terrorists.”

Although it’s not certain what the exact ransom or actions ISIS is asking for in return for sparing Sotloff’s life are, it is thought the group is seeking the suspension of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, as well as the payment of several million dollars and the release of numerous high-profile prisoners.

Alan Holdren and Andrea Gagliarducci contributed to this report.

No one wins by destroying each other, Jerusalem bishop says

Rome, Italy, Aug 27, 2014 / 05:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem hopes the new indefinite ceasefire in Gaza will hold, cautioning that victory cannot come from violence and that compromise is vital on both sides for it to last.

“This time we are much more hopeful for one important reason: no one is victorious after two months. Two are losers I believe, no one is victorious even if someone says ‘I won.’ No one won,” Bishop Shomali, auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told CNA Aug. 27.

Each has “finally understood that no one can destroy the other” and that “there is a need for a compromise” as well as “a comprehensive solution to the problem,” he said.

The long-term ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip was negotiated by Egypt, and took effect at 7 p.m. (4 p.m. GMT) Tuesday, ending seven weeks of fighting which has left more than 2,200 people dead, most of them Palestinians.

According BBC News, Palestinian officials stated that the ceasefire proposal called for an indefinite end to hostilities, an immediate opening of Gaza’s access to Israel and Egypt, and an extension of the area’s Mediterranean fishing zone.

The agency reports that immediately Israel is to end its blockade of Gaza in order to allow aid and building materials in. Further discussion on issues of greater tension, such as Israel’s call for a disarming of militant groups in Gaza, and the release of Hamas prisoners in the West Bank, are set to begin in Cairo within a month.

Israel originally launched their Operation Protective Edge July 8 with the stated goal of ending rocket fire from Hamas. To date, at least 2,140 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza, BBC reports, while 11,000 have been injured.

U.N. officials state that more than 17,000 buildings in the area have either been destroyed or severely damaged, and that there are at least 475,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), which is over a quarter of the territory’s population.

Of all the needs Gaza citizens are currently facing after 50 days of intense fighting, Bishop Shomali explained that “The greatest need is humanitarian. Medical needs for the wounded, hospitals which are overcrowded.”

“There is also the need for food nourishing these people” and “in the future we need special psychological treatment for traumatized children.”

Currently the situation “is difficult because of the big number of victims,” he said, stating that “Many, many homes were destroyed, many families lost everything; their house, maybe they lost their dear ones in the house. It’s tragic.”

Explaining how patriarchate opened their schools to those seeking shelter and fleeing from the ongoing attacks, Bishop Shomali noted that at least 1,000 people sought refuge there.

Now they are preparing for a new academic year, but there is a lot of work to do in restoring the schools after the presence of so many who were homeless.

“We have to refurnish it, paint it, renew the windows and the doors. It’s been a mess,” he said, revealing that they will also “dispensate” families “from paying any fees because they have no money. So we take care of all of the scholarships of the students, this is a big amount.”

Noting how the Holy See has been helping relief efforts through numerous Catholic aid organizations such as Caritas Jerusalem and Catholic Relief Services, the bishop explained that “we thank the Holy See because they are very aware of the situation.”

“The Holy Father was very close to us, very close to the parish priest of Gaza, so we are really consoled by the proximity of the Catholic Church with us.”

New Ukrainian Orthodox head to face questions of independence

Kyiv, Ukraine, Aug 19, 2014 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The newly elected head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate must decide whether that Church can be independent from Russia, Ukraine’s eastern neighbor with which it is in conflict, analysts say.

On Aug. 13, Metropolitan Onufriy was elected Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, making him the primate of the UOC-MP, which is one of the three primary Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. He was enthroned at his Church’s Kyiv cathedral Aug. 17.

In addition to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate – which is under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church – there is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

“The greatest dependence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church on Moscow is ideological,” Anatoliy Babinskyj, an analyst of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine told CNA, adding that “98 percent of the literature which is sold in the churches of the UOC-MP are published in Russia with a clear idea of ‘the Russian world’.”

“Ukraine is not only a huge market for Russia  but also a field for ideological influence through books, websites, magazines, and priests who teach theological, cultural, and mental traditions in Russian.”

Ukraine has experienced significant unrest this year: its president was ousted in February and a new government appointed; in March, Crimea was annexed by Russia; and pro-Russian separatist rebels have taken control of eastern portions of Ukraine, around Donetsk and Luhansk, since April.

Fighting in the country continues: at least 2,119 have died in the violence since mid-April. More than 155,000 are internally displaced, and 188,000 have become refugees in Russia, according to the United Nations.

Against this backdrop, Metropolitan Onufriy’s election last week was due to his excellent reputation, experts say: he has not been involved in scandals in the past, and is known for his true prayer.

He was born in 1944 to a priest in western Ukraine. He became a monk in Russia in the 1970s, and was ordained a priest in 1972. He later returned to Ukraine, joining a monastery in his homeland. He was consecrated a bishop in 1990.

In 1988 Metropolitan Onufriy graduated from the Moscow Theological Academy, which belonged to one of the most conservative schools of theology in the Soviet Union; in contrast, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow, Kirill, studied at the liberal Leningrad Theological Academy.

“The Church has chosen prayer and ministry, and clever conservatism has never been harmful,” Fr. Gregory Kovalenko, spokesman for the UOC-MP, told CNA regarding Metropolitan Onufriy’s election.

While the metropolitan has 40 years experience as a monk, some experts are hesitant that this will help him be a good manager, a necessary talent for exercising control over his Church.

He had, in fact, been elected locum tenens for the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine – thus acting head of the UOC-MP – in February. He acted on behalf of Metropolitan Volodymyr, who was primate of that Church from 1992 until his July 5 death.

According to Fr. Kovalenko, Metropolitan Onufriy speaks Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, and English.

“The bishops’ choice (of Onufriy) is very logical; we are not ready for radical steps today” the UOC-MP Metropolitan of Vyshneve and Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskyy, Oleksandr Drabynko, told CNA.

Prior to the election, the electors gave the future primate three tasks: unification of Ukrainian society; gaining autocephaly for the Church, that it could be united with the UOC-KP; and union within the Church, which has been troubled by the recent unrest in eastern Ukraine.

Metropolitan Volodymyr had been able to balance the factions within the Church, according to Babinskyj.

“(While) staying a rather pro-Ukrainian leader, he didn’t prohibit pro-Russian priests from working,” he said. “And the situation in eastern Ukraine is, in a way, their fault. Even now, when there is war with Russia, the priests of the Moscow Patriarchate continue to agitate for ‘the Russian world’ in the churches of Luhansk and Donetsk.”

This spring, Fr. Vitaliy Eismonth, a priest of the UOC-MP, served a Divine Liturgy with the UOC-KP, for which he was removed from ministry for a month.

Following the election of Metropolitan Onufriy, he joined the Kyiv Patriarchate.

According to the Information Center of Razumkov, a Ukrainian analytics center, the number of believers adhering to the UOC-KP now exceeds the those with the UOC-MP, while in 2013 the Churches’ numbers were about the same.

This month the UOC-MP community in Soloniv, a village in western Ukraine’s Rivne province, joined the Kyiv Patriarchate when its priest refused to pray for the Ukrainian military serving in the country’s east; and the Kyiv Patriarchate recently announced that about 10 parishes have transferred to their jurisdiction this year from the UOC-MP.

Despite these moves, the UOC-MP does not see a danger in losing its faithful.

Metropolitan Drabynko said it is not a catastrophe, and that the situation is highly dependent on what region of Ukraine one is in.

Metropolitan Onufriy told journalists shortly after his election that “we remain, and have always been, open to dialogue among different branches of Orthodoxy. And we want to see union between us, but we have our principles – a canon of the Holy Orthodox Church and association can only be in accordance with these canons; no other argument can be sufficient. We will communicate with our Orthodox brothers.”

Patriarch Kirill affirmed the metropolitan’s election, and Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s prime minister, congratulated him, saying, “I am sure that you will do everything to establish and maintain peace, to strengthen the Orthodox unity, and to revive  spiritual and moral values,” according to RIA Novosti.

The Kyiv Post reported Aug. 14 that Patriarch Filaret, head of the Kyiv Patriarchate, reacted to the election his new counterpart won’t advocate for Ukrainian interests, and that he will discuss unification of the Churches “only with the patriotically-minded clergy” of the UOC-MP.

Metropolitan Onufriy was elected on the second round of voting, by 48 of the 74 bishops voting in the council. Fr. Kovalenko said the decisiveness of the vote shows that the new primate will be able to united the faithful of the UOC-MP.

“He is honored in the monasteries of our Church. People in different regions like him, and it will help him to stabilize the life of Church,” Fr. Kovalenko said.

Metropolitan Oleksandr said that “I don’t see any pro-Russian branches of bishops, (though) there are some who still think in Soviet and imperial stereotypes. But Russia is not the example for them, rather, union with the Russian Orthodox Church. They are afraid of anything new, and an unpredictable future. Unity with Moscow is what they see as a guarantee of canonicity and stability – that the path they stand on is the right one.”

The analysts who spoke to CNA, however, are hesitant whether or not Metropolitan Onufriy is the person who can maintain balance within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate, noting the changes in Ukrainian society which the patriarchate has ignored.

“Before the future head of the Church was placed a goal: union with the Kyiv Patriarchate. But now there is the question, can Metropolitan Onufriy integrate the atmosphere of the UOC-MP? Even if there are some bishops and priests who do not agree with the policy of the authority, they will not make such  radical steps. But the UOC-MP cannot just get rid of a significant number of parishioners,” Babinskyj said.

Babinskyj also noted that “no official dialogue” has occurred between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church – to which most Catholics in Ukraine belong. There been only “private conversations, and cooperation at various commissions,” he said.

While Metropolitan Onufriy has not made any statements about his attitude toward Ukrainian Greek Catholics, analysts expect he will maintain his conservative views.

“The school of theology to which Metropolitan Onufriy belongs holds that the UGCC is a Western project to capture Ukraine in a union. I think that such a statement can be expected very quickly,” Babinskyj added.

Metropolitan Oleksandr concluded that “the biggest impact on the future vector of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the outlook of its bishops and priests will be had by the tears of the mothers who have lost their children, sacrificed to keep Ukraine integral.”

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