One of the few points of certainty in the current Pontificate is that we can always rely upon our Pope to sell out the interests of Catholics around the globe. Sandro Magister gives us the details on the latest sell out:
The words addressed by Pope Francis to the delegation of the patriarchate of Moscow, received in audience on Wednesday, May 30 (see photo), evidently were supposed to have remained confidential.
But on June 2, the press office of the Holy See released the transcription of the discourse. Which at that point could no longer remain secret, because right away the website Rome Reports posted a video with the key passages from it, and above all the official website of the patriarchate of Moscow featured it prominently, with complete satisfaction over what the pope had stated.
An understandable satisfaction, seeing how Francis espoused the ideas of the patriarchate of Moscow and instead condemned, in very harsh terms, the positions of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
Here in fact is what Francis said to the delegation of the patriarchate of Moscow, headed by its powerful “foreign minister,” Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk:
“Before you I would like to reiterate – in a special way before you, my dear brother, and before all of you – that the Catholic Church will never allow an attitude of division to arise from her people. We will never allow ourselves to do this, I do not want it. In Moscow – in Russia – there is only one Patriarchate: yours. We will not have another one. And when some Catholic faithful, be they laypeople, priests or bishops, raise the banner of Uniatism, which does not work anymore, and is over, then it causes me pain. The Churches that are united in Rome must be respected, but Uniatism as a path of unity is not valid today.”
And further on:
“The Catholic Church, the Catholic Churches must not get involved in internal matters of the Russian Orthodox Church, nor in political issues. This is my attitude, and the attitude of the Holy See today. And those who meddle do not obey the Holy See.”
To a non-specialist, these words of Francis may appear cryptic. But they become perfectly clear as soon as their backstory is known.
First of all, there is an ambiguity that must be cleared from the field. When the pope seems to say that he does not intend to create any Catholic “patriarchate” as an alternative to the Orthodox one of Moscow, he is not thinking about Russia – where Eastern-rite Catholics barely number 2,000 and are served by a Latin-rite bishop – but about Ukraine, where the Greek Catholic Church has 4 million faithful and has strongly aspired for some time to be established as a patriarchate, and in fact already often considers itself and acts as such.
In 2003, the elevation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to a patriarchate seemed almost like a done deal. And curiously, it had its promoter in Rome in Cardinal – now an ultra-Bergoglian – Walter Kasper, who at the time was the president of the pontifical council for Christian unity and sent the patriarch of Moscow a letter to announce the imminent turning point to him.
Look out below. When the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, also saw that letter, he wrote a fiery response to Rome, threatening a complete rupture in the ecumenical dialogue. Bartholomew’s letter to the pope, dated November 29, 2003, was made public in the international Catholic magazine “30 Giorni,” and the Vatican made a U-turn.
But the Orthodox camp also has its internal conflicts, with their epicenter in Ukraine.
Ukraine is the birthplace of Orthodox Russia and it is there that the patriarchate of Moscow has a large portion of its faithful and finds many of its vocations and much of its economic support.
Today, however, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is part of the patriarchate of Moscow is only one of the three Orthodox groups present in that country and is the only one that is canonically recognized by all of Orthodoxy, with Metropolitan Onufry.
There have in fact arisen in Ukraine, in recent decades, first a patriarchate rival to and declared schismatic by Moscow, with its patriarch a former top-level hierarch of the Russian Church, Filaret, and then another autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, with Metropolitan Methodius.
So then, for some time there has been a growing push – also political, with the government of Kiev very active – to unify these three Churches in an autonomous new reality, under the aegis of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew.
Who has been working hard in this direction. And has personally kept Pope Francis informed, meeting with him in Rome last May 26.
The solution designed by Bartholomew is similar to the one that put an end to the Western schism at the end of the Middle Ages, when the three popes in office resigned in order to bring about the election of a new pope recognized by all.
In Bartholomew’s plan, the three Orthodox Churches now present in Ukraine would have to give up the jurisdiction they now exercise in order to allow the creation of a new Orthodox ecclesial subject in which the respective bishops, priests, and faithful would converge.
This new unified Ukrainian Orthodox Church would not necessarily be a patriarchate, but it would still enjoy its own autonomy and autocephaly.
And for the patriarchate of Moscow this would be a high price to pay, because it would lose any jurisdiction in Ukraine that it is now guaranteed by the Orthodox Church under its rule.
In Moscow, Patriarch Kirill and his deputy Hilarion are therefore understandably very distrustful in the face of this operation. And Russian President Putin is even more hostile, being at war with Ukraine and not wanting to see any decrease in his dominion over the region by autonomist religious as well as political movements.
But it is not out of the question that Constantinople patriarch Bartholomew may want to bring the operation into port anyway, even with the opposition of Moscow. There would be a repeat, in this case, of what happened in 2016 with the pan-Orthodox council, strongly backed by Barhtolomew and ultimately celebrated in spite of the defection of the patriarchate of Moscow.
And the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, what role is it playing in this affair?
It is certainly very active in supporting the reunification of the three Orthodox Churches, in agreement above all with the most anti-Russian one, which has in Filaret its self-proclaimed patriarch. But the officials of the patriarchate of Moscow are accusing it of something much more serious: of wanting to surreptitiously lead this reunified Ukrainian Orthodox world back into unity with the Greek Catholics as well, and therefore into obedience to the Church of Rome.
This is the “uniatism” that Pope Francis as well has condemned in no uncertain terms, in his discourse on May 30 to the delegation of the patriarchate of Moscow. “Uniatism” is the most intolerable thing there is for the Orthodox. It stands for the mimicry of those who display a resemblance to them in everything, in the Byzantine Greek liturgies, in customs, in the calendar, in the married clergy, but in addition to this obey – and want to make others obey – the pope of Rome.
At the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, with the title of major archbishop, is Sviatoslav Shevchuk, 48, a dynamic figure of great intelligence, whom Jorge Mario Bergoglio knows personally on account of a period of time that he spent in Buenos Aires caring for Ukrainian emigrants in Argentina.
This does not change the fact that Pope Francis addressed against none other than him, without mentioning him by name, the harshest words of his discourse on May 30, ordering him “not to meddle in internal matters” of Orthodoxy.
Among Shevchuk, Kirill, and Bartholomew, therefore, in this matter the pope is clearly distancing himself from the first of these, as he has also done with regard to Russian aggression against Ukraine.
While between Kirill and Bartholomew he is trying to be friends with both. With a greater preference for the Russian patriarch, in the event of a tie between the two.
It can be pointed out, in confirmation of this last preference of the pope, that Francis has declined to grant a place of worship in Rome to the Orthodox faithful of Russian tradition who fall under Bartholomew’s jurisdiction.
Go here to read the rest. Bang up job on choosing Pope Francis in 2013 Cardinals. No Pope would have been preferable.