Interview of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with ukrinform.ua | community, church, world
KIEV – “I am going to Kiev with a message of love and unity, a prayer for all who live in Ukraine.”
August 20, 2021
His Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch will arrive in Ukraine this evening. This is his third visit to our country. His Holiness visited Odessa in September 1997 and Kiev in July 2008, but this visit is special in that it is the first since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church received autocephaly and coincides with the 30th anniversary of our independence.
In this exclusive interview, His Holiness the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome spoke to Ukrinform about the formation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, its development and growing strength, the efforts of outside forces, responses and related challenges, and the pandemic and Mother Church’s position on immunization.
THE MOTHER CHURCH HAS BEEN CONCERNED FOR THE UKRAINIAN CHURCH FOR THOUSAND YEARS
– Your Holiness, your first visit to Ukraine since the Ukrainian Orthodox Church received Autocephaly Tomos begins today. What is the program and what are the expectations of this visit?
– First of all, I would like to report that I am visiting Ukraine at the invitation of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to participate in the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of independence and to share the joy of the Ukrainian people on this opportunity. I also received an official invitation from His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphany of Kiev and all over Ukraine. I am convinced that I will welcome the progress of the newly established Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Mother Church of Constantinople, from which more than 1,000 years ago your ancestors were baptized into Christianity at the request of Saint Volodymyr, has never ceased to show interest and concern for all of you and your local church. Relations between Constantinople and Kiev have remained strong and unwavering for ten centuries, and today they are more relevant than ever. I want to convey through this interview a message of love and unity to the clergy, to the faithful and to all the brothers and sisters of Ukraine, whom I look forward to meeting in person.
THE CHURCH CANNOT BE TERRORIZED; LIES AND Defamation STRENGTHEN OUR FAITH
– Your Holiness, we are grateful for your attention, support and care for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Are you satisfied with its progress and current development? What advice would you give to strengthen the Ukrainian Orthodox Church?
– We are very satisfied with all that has been accomplished in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the granting of the Tomos of autocephaly to the present day. We are proud of the ministry and witness of this Church, without hiding the fact that it has become the object of ruthless acts of defamation and lies from certain circles who do not want there to be an Orthodox Church in Ukraine. independent of external influences.
The Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, also experiences all that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church suffers from. Unfortunately, some people seem to be accustomed to lying and committing religious abuse, believing in this way to intimidate the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the local autocephalous churches and the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church. However, Christianity cannot be threatened. The church cannot be terrorized. Lying and defamation don’t bother us; on the contrary, they strengthen our faith in the canons, traditions and truth of the Church.
His Beatitude Metropolitan Epiphany of Kiev is a prudent primate who knows how to manage ecclesiastical affairs effectively and in the spirit of the canonical tradition of Orthodoxy. We trust him and have optimistic hope for the future of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. I urge him to continue to follow the straight path, the one which leads to the education of the faithful and to unity.
THOSE WHO DOUBT THE CANONICITY OF OCU AUTOCEPHALY ARE NOT GUIDED BY ECCLESIASTICAL CRITERIA
– What would you say to the brothers and sisters of the Moscow Patriarchate who are convinced that the autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is “non-canonical” or “defective”?
– The problem with such people is that it is difficult for them to recognize reality, or that they refuse to recognize it. They also ignore what autocephaly means, its history and canonical practice. The Russian Church, to which they aspire to belong, has received its statutes of autocephalus and patriarchate from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Why then do they not want to recognize that the same canonical justification for autocephaly that has been validly applied to grant autocephaly and patriarchal status to the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox Churches by the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the same valid way for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church? The intercession of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not noncanonical, it is rather their questioning of this intercession which is noncanonical. Obviously, they are not at all interested in the canonical order, because in this case they clearly weigh the interests of foreign powers on ecclesiastical criteria.
REFUSAL OF VACCINATION IS NOT BASED ON THEOLOGICAL OR SCIENTIFIC GROUNDS
– The global community is actively fighting the coronavirus. In the Orthodox world, there are those who oppose vaccination, the wearing of masks and the maintenance of social distancing. What is the attitude of the Mother Church towards vaccination? Have you and those around you been vaccinated?
– The current great health crisis affects Orthodox Christians as well as all of humanity. Of course, we are criticized for facing and fighting the pandemic by supporting the development of useful vaccines and other countermeasures. However, the denial of vaccination and other protective measures is irrational and unjustified by theological or scientific criteria. I have said from the start that the pandemic threatens our devotees, but not our faith. It is a fact that a large number of believers who refused protective measures fell victim to this virus. This is why it is unacceptable in the face of so many victims and so much suffering to deny the existence of a pandemic, to see it as someone’s created, or to spread conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, this attitude shows indifference towards others. However, anything that contradicts the command to love your neighbor cannot be God’s will. The Church of Constantinople encourages the faithful to consult their doctors and to vaccinate according to their instructions. Of course, all of us in Phanar, including myself, have been vaccinated.
SCIENCE IS A BLESSING FROM GOD BECAUSE IT SERVES HUMANITY
– The Coronavirus has killed a large number of people. Suddenly many of us have experienced illness or the sudden loss of loved ones. What do you advise to uplift us morally? What are the best ways to support ourselves and our families?
– This is not the first time that the Church has faced a pandemic. And each time the answer was prayer and the observation of directed countermeasures. Today, science is proving that it can find solutions quickly and efficiently. Of course, there are limits to scientific knowledge; but, because science serves mankind, it is a blessing from God. We gratefully accept this divine gift. Therefore, we are grateful to the scientists who have developed vaccines so quickly that protect us from complications from the coronavirus. In addition, we thank the doctors and other health professionals around the world who work daily to save people and fight against Covid-19. I know that doctors and other medical professionals in Ukraine are also doing everything possible to save patients. We greet them, bless them, and assure them that they are in our prayers, asking our Savior Christ to support their efforts. We also pray daily that God will give peace to the souls of the victims of this pandemic and comfort to their families.
OCU HAS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE UNITY AND PROSPERITY OF UKRAINIANS
– Your Holiness, this visit to Ukraine is dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence. As the spiritual father of Orthodox Ukrainians, what would you like to say or wish to your flock in Ukraine and to Ukrainians in general?
– As already said, we share the joy of the Ukrainian people on this anniversary. We pray for the development, prosperity, unity and spiritual growth of all people living in Ukraine without exception. And we are convinced that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will play an extremely active and important role in this positive progress and development. We have no doubt that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church will become an important milestone on the road to Church unity in your country. The granting of autocephaly by the Ecumenical Patriarchate will remain a vital moment and a milestone in the history of the Ukrainian people.