30 January 2012, 13:27
Patriarch pointed out that the Russian Church has recently suggested reviving the four-party commission comprising the Vatican, the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
"However, the Catholic Church was not very enthusiastic about our offer," he said..."
Here is the sticking point and it is one that those of us who either personally, or through our family narratives, were involved in property disputes here in North America can understand:"Speaking about the seizure of Orthodox churches in Ukraine by Greek Catholics, the Patriarch pointed out that the Russian Church has recently suggested reviving the four-party commission comprising the Vatican, the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church."
To those who retained their Greek Catholic faith during the periods of state enforced persecution, the property transfers in western Ukraine are not 'seizures' but legitimate 'recoveries.' For example, the Greek Catholic Cathedrals in Uzhorod and Muchachevo were both built in the post-Unia era in the 18th and 19th centuries, so to the Greek Catholics they were unlawfully 'seized' as a result of state actions in 1947.
To those who legitimately professed Orthodoxy both prior to and following 1947, their views on the subject are obviously different and need to be respected by the Greek Catholic community as well before any meaningful progress can be achieved.
As to those who sit in places like Moscow, Athens or in comfortable places in the west who abstractly pine about the historical wrongs caused by the unia in the first instance, I can only say that it is far easier to pontificate on a subject than to understand it from first hand experience.
Keep in mind also that for eastern Europe, all of this is recent history as only twenty years have passed. When I was a kid in the 1960's, some twenty years following the end of the period of litigation and church building following the second schism in the American Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church, my church friends would literally 'cross the street' rather than pass in front of the newly constructed BCC church next door. Their children would 'hold their breath and look the other way' when passing St. Michael's. This pattern was repeated across the Northeast and Midwestern United States in countless cities, towns and hamlets where churches were split during that time period.
Today our peoples and our leaders remain separated by faith and most are comfortable with the choices that fate presented us, but we no longer have the 'hatred' and passion that existed years ago. Most of us have learned to cherish that which we possess in common and to try to understand those things which keep us apart. It is a tough road, but not an impossible one to follow.
To expect the Ukrainians and the Russians to 'kiss and make up' only twenty years after the collapse of the USSR and the restoration of the Greek Catholic church is unrealistic - for both sides. Of course the Ukrainian problems are compounded by the fractures within the Orthodox communities in Ukraine and the relationships, and lack thereof, which the Ukrainian Greek Catholics are developing with some of the Orthodox on purely nationalistic grounds.
I would only ask those who are far removed from that situation, as well as the parallel ones in Slovakia and Romania to not be quick to judge our brothers and sisters as none of you have walked the proverbial mile in their shoes - either Orthodox or Greek Catholic ones for that matter.
Keep them all in your prayers so that the secularists and Protestants are kept at a distance.