The Brutal Anniversary of Ukrainian Uniates

30 years of violence, hatred, Jesuitism, and more than 1,000 captured temples

This week Ukrainian Uniates celebrated the “30th anniversary of the withdrawal from the underground” with a service with Poroshenko and a solemn ceremonial cancellation of a stamp in honour of the anniversary in… the Lvov Opera House.

What does the so-called Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church tie its anniversary to? As we can see, not to the first public appeal from the “evil empire” to the Pope in August 1987, when a group of secret Uniates led by two biskups sent a pontiff statement about the “withdrawal of a part of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USSR from the underground”. And it wasn’t dated for the first long-term action in the heart of this “empire” (a couple of kilometers from Lubyanka) in May 1989, nor to the November 1989 Statement of the Council for Religious Affairs of the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian Soviet Social Republic, which recognised the right of communities of Ukrainian Uniates to free existence. And not even the beginning of the official registration after the meeting of the leader of the Communist Party with the Pope of Rome.

The anniversary is timed with the capture on October 29th 1989 of the Temple of Transfiguration in Lvov. The same one on the steps of which in 1948 one of the most prominent theologians of his time was eliminated by the Uniate-OUN member and protopresbyter Havryïl Kostelnyk, who had dared two years prior to initiate the return of the Galician Rusyns to their native faith – in Orthodoxy.

Well, it was the brutal cruelty, pathological hatred, and Jesuit treachery that marked the revival of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (UCC), as it was then called.

However, the supporters of the revival of this structure themselves were least concerned about its name and what the symbol of faith was. Only 10% of them believed that the UCC “most consistently expresses the teaching of Christ”. The remaining 90% of “neophytes” joined it for political and chauvinistic reasons. And with Russianness, which was hated by the new rulers of minds in Galicia (just released Ukrainian dissidents), rightly identified the Russian Orthodox Church and its Ukrainian exarchate (since 1990 – Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate).

“The political demands of the Committee for the Protection of the UCC clearly prevailed over religious ones,” said the historian of the Church in Ukraine Vladislav Petrushko. “It is characteristic that before the beginning of ‘perestroika’ Ukrainian dissidence was characterised by disregard for issues of faith, without in any way protecting Ukrainians who suffered on religious grounds (i.e. mainly the same Uniates). Now, when it became profitable, Uniatism has turned in the hands of former dissidents into a banner of Galicia with the aim of Ukrainian separatism.”

The actual head of the UCC in the USSR, Volodymyr Sterniyuk, put forward the slogan: to return to Uniatism of all temples and property as of 1939. At first glance it seems to be fair, if one does not know that the vast majority of the communities of these churches were forcibly transferred to Uniatism (in the early years of the 18th century alone – 1250 temples), and that at the first opportunity the Rusyns always returned to Orthodoxy.

“When in 1989 the occupation of temples by Uniates began, they planned to occupy both the Pochayev and Kiev-Pechersk monasteries,” attested abbot Kirill (Sakharov). “Somehow the Uniate bishop Sofron Dmyterko in the occupied Voskresensky Sobor of Ivano-Frankovsk to the parishioner’s question ‘what will be penance for massacring an Orthodox Christian’, answered: ‘saying ‘Our Father’ 40 times and ‘Hail the Virgin Mary 50 times (it was recorded with a tape recorder)”.

The-then Metropolitan of Chernovtsi and Bukovina Onufry (now Metropolitan of Kiev), confirmed: representatives of the People’s Movement of Ukraine came first to their Lavras and inclined the abbots and brethren to “properly show their national identity”. When they heard in response that “the Church has other tasks, and so it is higher than nationalities”, pitchforks were used. Literally, with dead priests.

Despite the peaceful meeting on December 1st 1989 between Pope John Paul II and Gorbachev, by February 1990 the Uniates had occupied 370 temples (Delicate church problems, Argumenty i fakty, 1990, No. 7). On December 12th 1989 in the village of Perevoloka in the Ternopol region the parishioner Vasiliy Mokritskiy was killed while protecting the temple. At the end of December, in the Dolinsky district of the Ivano-Frankovsk region, unknown men broke into the home of the Abbot of the Goshevsky Monastery, Father Superior Serafim, and stabbed him in the abdomen and heart. On February 2nd 1990, the Uniates destroyed the monastic corps and broke down the doors of the temple of the Goshevsky Monastery. About 10 houses of Orthodox defenders of the monastery were set on fire in the villages around the monastery (Facts of violent actions of the Uniates from October 28th 1989 to the present day, Russian State Archive of Social and Political History, f. 89, Per. 8, Doc. 41.).

Just in March, a Four-Party Commission (on the one hand representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, and on the other – the Roman Curia and Uniates, including representatives of commissions of local councils) started to solve the issues of ownership of temples. The worked out principle is simple: if a community wants to join Uniatism – then it does, and if it does not want to join – then it remains in Orthodoxy. If the community is divided, the temple remains with the majority, and the minority collectively build a new one. The relevant resolution was signed on March 13th 1990.

But a week later, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (so they now began to call themselves – with a view to Ukrainian status) published a statement refusing to participate in the Four-Party Commission. Among the reasons is the refusal of the Moscow Patriarchate to recognise the illegality of the Lvov Cathedral… 1946. It is as if the Russian Orthodox Church demanded as a condition of negotiations to recognise the illegality of the Brest “Sobor” of 1596! And from Roman Catholics at the same time anathema to Patriarch Photius 867.

The following month, the need for a commission for Uniates generally disappeared: in the local council elections “National Democrats” headed by Chernovol won in Galicia. The UGCC received carte blanche for an open religious war with the support of the authorities.

“‘People’s Movement’, which won the election in Galicia, first engaged in the pogrom of Orthodox communities and their forced transfer to Uniatism,” wrote Vasiliy Anisimov, head of the press service of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). “With police attacks, beatings, the use of special means (including ‘Cheremukha’ gas). And they smashed things up for a long time”. How long, reminds the editor-in-chief of the site of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Archpriest Yaroslav Yarema: “On March 16th 1995, at the order of the Chairman of the Lvov Regional Council N. Goryni, about 600 employees of the district police departments and a ‘Berkut’ special purpose detachment arrived on 16 buses to the village of Medynichi in the Drogobychsky district in order to transfer the local church. After breaking down the door, the Special Unit entered the church. After the severe use of physical measures and special equipment, in particular tear gas, members of the Orthodox community of the village were displaced from the church building. Two days later, the temple was handed over to the Greek Catholic community, which was hastily organised by representatives of the local intelligentsia, who left the building of the church after the police left — and the Orthodox again occupied it.”

In 1995 more than 2,000 police officers, including “OMON”, were involved to “force the liberation of churches from Orthodox citizens”, which amounted to 14,000 persons per day. This would provide Lvov with 40 patrol-sentry routes for three months (Markovskaya N. S. Ukrainian Olster, Vybur. 1996. No. 1-2. Pages 109 – 111).

Some Orthodox believers, forgetting the Jesuit origin of Ukrainian Uniatism, gave consent to serve in the church on an alternating basis and, having allowed Greek Catholics into the church, lost it. As of 1993 (when the Rada adopted an amendment to the Law “On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organisations”, allowing the transfer of the temple for alternate divine services regardless of the consent of the community), up to 80 such cases were recorded in the Lvov region alone.

“The means used by extremists are most eloquently evidenced by the measures taken to intimidate the Abbot of the only parish remaining in the jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate in the city of Ternopol, Father Anatoly. He was repeatedly called on the phone, he personally and his family were threatened. Then the tires of his car were punctured. When all of this did not work, a terrible evil was committed: the tongue and throat young son of the priest was pierced with an awl,” wrote the former Lvov professor V.I. Petrushko.

Rome knew everything

Was this a surprise for the Roman Curia? As early as June 1988, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Casaroli, who arrived in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to participate in the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus, met with underground Uniate biskup Pavel Vasilik (author of the aforementioned appeal to the Pope of 1987) and Fylymon Kurchaba. “The technical side of the delicate mission of the Vatican Secretary of State, who did not want to publicise this meeting, was provided by the Prior of the Kiev Church, the Latvian priest Yan Krapan,” reports Archpriest Yaroslav Yarema. “During the meeting, a mechanism of interaction between the Roman Curia and the Uniate underground was worked out in order to prevent the revival of Orthodoxy in Galicia. Encouraged by Cardinal Casaroli’s assurance of the full, including financial, support of Pope John Paul II, the leaders of the Uniates started to implement the plan for the construction of the so-called Catholic Ukrainian Republic in Galicia, which was already defined by Metropolitan Andrey (Sheptitsky). “

The aforementioned biskup Fylymon preached in public: “Dear brothers and sisters, take and throw them out, shoot all Orthodox… Orthodox has no place in Western Ukraine. Orthodox people should move to the eastern regions. Here we will create the Catholic Ukrainian Republic.”

And it was created. Almost out of the blue. As early as 1988, about 100,000 practicing Uniates, united in 138 illegal communities, lived in Subcarpathia and Prykarpattia. Another third of the population, according to the data of the Council for Religious Affairs of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, themselves being Orthodox, sympathised with the Uniate faith. In order to meet the spiritual needs of the Catholics of the eastern rite, a quarter of the temples they required would suffice. It is possible, of course, to be skeptical of Soviet statistics, but for some reason it was the Uniates who protested whenever it was proposed to decide on the ownership of churches by a secret ballot of the territorial community. “The intention of the Vatican was precisely to occupy churches and force Orthodox people to change their religion,” concludes Archpriest Rostislav Yarema.

By the autumn of 1995, when President Kuchma ordered the establishment of a government commission to study the religious situation in the Lvov region, the destruction of three Orthodox dioceses (Lvov, Ivano-Frankovsk, and partially – to the river Zbruch – Ternopol) was almost completed. At the very beginning of the new millennium this allowed the employee of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate and now lawyer Igor Vyzhanov with bitter irony to state: “Everything that was then occupied and thus held, the Orthodox successfully marginalised, so there is no reason for a conflict. Everything is quiet and calm.”

And even such “quiet and calm” remained until the Uniate “revolution of dignity”. Already in 2017, the UGCC captured, with the support of neo-Nazi paramilitary groups, one of the last Orthodox temples in Galicia – the Annunciation church in Kolomyia.

This monument of architecture was built by the Orthodox in 1587 – even before the Union of Brest and 113 years before the transfer to the Union of the Galicia Diocese. “We will not throw pearls in front of Moscow pigs – you are disenfranchised biomass,” frankly said the Uniate Parson during the capture. “We will not only take this temple from you, we will take everything. We will kick you from our land and from the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra.”

Well, the “Patriarch of the UGCC” Svyatoslav Shevchuk already declared the pilgrimage of the Uniates to “their historical shrine” – St. Sophia’s Cathedral. This, however, coincided with the presidential campaign in Ukraine, and Poroshenko, frightened by the loss of support from the UGCC, persuaded Shevchuk to cancel the “mobilisation”.

Now in Ukraine there is another president. The UGCC is still in opposition to him. Will this president be able to “convince” the Uniates to be law-abiding? A slim chance! Judging by his “kneeling down” in front of UGCC adherents/Ukrainian neo-Nazis, this president needn’t bother trying.

Dmitriy Skvortsov, Fondsk

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