Does Pope Francis’s Joint Declaration with Patriarch Kirill Throw Eastern Catholics Under the Bus?

(Source: Flickr; Author: Larry Koester; Title: Patriarch Kirill, CC by 2.0).

The mainstream religious media coverage of the Joint Declaration signed by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill does not inspire much confidence. You keep seeing the “first meeting in a 1,00o years” line, but the Russian Church only became an autonomous entity about 600 years ago. There is mention of the mutual excommunications between East and West in 1054, but no mention how they were lifted in 1965 by Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras. And so on…

Shallow Western coverage of news from East of the Oder River is par for the course. It frequently leaves Poles, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Czechs, et. al. grabbing their heads wondering how so much could be lost in translation. This is how it’s always been, a steady diet of Newspeak.

I’d like to dig a little bit deeper into the Joint Havana Declaraction with a guest post by Fr Andriy Chirovsky. He is Parish Priest at St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church, Tucson AZ. He is the Founder and Director of the The Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies where he serves as the Peter and Doris Kule Chair of Eastern Christian Theology and Spirituality. Fr. Chirovsky is also the editor of Following the Star From the East and the author of Pray for God’s Wisdom: The Mystical Sophiology of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky.

What follows is his reply, reprinted here with his permission, to the Joint Declaration:

I have read the Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. Much of it is good and sincere. Paragraph five really sums up for me why we Eastern Catholics care so much about Eucharistic Communion. The care for persecuted Christians is extremely important. Standing up for Christian morality is essential. But of the thirty paragraphs, numbers 25,26 and 27 are extremely problematic. In par. 25 we Eastern Catholics are not recognized as Church, but referred to as “ecclesial communities”. I am sure Moscow loves that. In Par. 26 no mention is made of foreign aggression, but rather it makes it look like both sides are equivalent. This is manifestly unjust. Moscow loves that. In par. 27 the question of the Ukrainian Orthodox is assigned to “canonical norms” which is code for saying that only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church -Moscow Patriarchate is legitimate. Moscow loves that.

I am hoping that all of this means that Cardinal Koch and his team of ecumenists in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity were asleep on the job. The alternative is too terrible to contemplate.

The rest of the document has much good in it. I will study it much more closely, of course, and write about it.

Lest anyone get too upset, in the Catholic Church these sorts of documents are not as important as canon law, which is really what ROME cares about. That’s why they can let these issues slip by.

Our vocation as Ukrainian Greco-Catholics is to be faithful to the Lord and to live Eucharistic Communion, with all of the cost that involves. Be shrewd as serpents but innocent as doves.

Everything that is hidden will be disclosed. Glory to Jesus Christ!

This post’s title question remains open. Below I reproduce paragraphs 25-27 for your careful consideration:

25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.

27. It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.

For more on the The Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies see the video below:

You might also want to read about Patriarch Kirill’s problematically close relationship with Russian power and the Russian Orthodox Church’s recent push to take over the traditional leading role in Eastern Orthodoxy held by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

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