Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ukraine and secularism

Here is a link to my Russian language blog on http://www.pik.org.ua/ website published last week – just during the celebration of 1020 years of the Christianization of Kyivan Rus.

The name of the blog article – Questions on Religion Studies. I wrote that I have only five questions concerning the celebration (which was organized at the highest state level with the participation of President and first-level officials of secular country Ukraine in all the events of the celebration, including public worship), and also concerning the visit to Ukraine of ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

Question 1. Did the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew know that for three days he will become the central figure of political PR campaign in Ukraine?

Question 2. Did somebody informed the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew about hundreds of giant bog-boards with collaged portrait of him and President of Ukraine, signed with something like “Ukraine is the cradle of Orthodox religion”?

Question 3. Does Viktor Yushchenko know that His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew came to Ukraine – on the first place – at the invitation of Alexy, patriarch of Moscow? (Russian Ministry of Foreign affairs has recently published a note that states that the patriarch of Moscow was humiliated by Ukrainian authorities during the celebration and I can say that it is an 80 percent truth).

I would like to quote a press release of the Saint Sinode of Orthodox Church (to prove the information of question "3" :
During its regular session, held on June 23-25, 2008, The Holy and Sacred Synod reviewed the invitations of His Beatitude Alexy, Patriarch of Moscow, requesting a Patriarchal Delegation to attend the festivities of the 1020th anniversary of the Christianization of the Kievan Rus and of His Excellency Viktor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine, to His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to personally lead the aforementioned festivities.

Having evaluated the invitations of the Church, Nation and the Ukrainian people, and in honoring their feelings, the Mother Church – as the one who originally guided the Ukrainian people into baptism – decided to respond to the aforementioned invitations through the sending of a Patriarchal Delegation under the personal leadership of His All Holiness.
At the Patriarchate, 2 July 2008From the Chief Secretariat of the Holy Synod.

Question 4. Do the President’s entourage understand that the participation on Mr. Yushchenko (President of secular and multi-religious Ukraine) in the Orthodox-church event as one of the main "personages" is not very good idea - at least for his image?

Question 5. And what if the answer for the question “4” is “yes”?

Here I have to remind that Ukraine was Christianized by St. Volodymyr in 988. Under Soviet rule, churches and religion were officially divided from a state, and unofficially prohibited. That situation ended in 1991, when Ukraine gained independence.

More than 20% of the population claim to be atheists. Of those who believe in God, more than 90 percent are Christians, the majority Orthodox. The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is divided into three denominations: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kiev Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.

As of 1 January 2008 (official report http://www.risu.org.ua/text/2008ua.xls), around 67.6 % of Orthodox Communities belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate [UOC-MP] (more than 11.5 thousand communities, 173 monasteries, 9.2 thousand of priests). About one fifth (24 %) of Orthodox communities belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyivan Patriarchate [UOC-KP] (4 thousand communities, 44 monasteries, 2.9 thousand of priests). About 7.1% of the Orthodox communities whose statutes are registered according to current legislation belong to the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (1.2 thousand communities, 6 monasteries, 661 priest).
There have been considerable disputes between members of these groups. In 1997 leaders of major religious denominations and churches signed a memorandum on the nonviolent resolution of religious conflicts drafted by the government. Nevertheless, problems remain.

Less than 10% of the religiously active population of Ukraine are members of the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church. Roman Catholics claim about one million members and are largely concentrated in the formerly Austro-Hungarian and Polish western territories. The country's Jewish population numbers between 250,000 and 325,000 people (thought some Jewish leaders claim the number is closer to 500,000). Other Christian denominations, including Baptists, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, represent 2% of the country's populace.

The head of the Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of Ukraine estimates that there are as many as two million members of the nation's Muslim community. Islam is practiced mainly by the Tatar population of the autonomous republic of the Crimea.