When it comes to politics and faith, Kyiv has always looked west, never north, – writes Bishop Peter Stasiuk in his article for The Church and Life Newspaper.
It seems that the only winds that blew down on Ukraine from the north were experienced during the days of the Soviet Union. In general, these were never very happy days for Ukraine.
We all know that our faith came from the Byzantine tradition from the city of Constantinople. This is the city in which St. Olga’s baptism record was preserved. Presumably St. Volodymyr’s baptism records are there as well because Ukraine was evangelized and converted by the Greeks in 988. Aside from the wonderful Byzantine music which was enjoyed by St. Volodymyr’s delegates in Constantinople, history also tells us that another reason why his preference was a political alliance with the Greeks and their empire at the time.
This is not surprizing at all. Years before 988, when St. Volodymyr was still a young boy, his grandmother St. Olga was already speaking to Otto I, the Holy Roman Emperor, about sending missionaries to Ukraine to convert it to Christianity. She also had political ambitions of unity with the west.
A few years ago, the crowds on the Majdan shouted that “Ukraine is Europe”. St. Olga knew that 1000 years earlier.
Otto I sent a Bishop called Adalbert from Magdeburg, Germany, to fulfil St. Olga’s request. Sviatoslav, Olga’s son who was in charge of Ukraine at the time, ordered the German delegation to go home. Ukraine could have been Roman Catholic just years before 988.
One of the reasons they did this is because they did not want to be under the newly formed Moscow Patriarchate.
A couple of hundred years later, Ukrainian bishops present at the council of Florence asked for unity with the west again. This is a couple of hundred years before Moscow was even formally established.
In 1596, the year of the Union of Brest, Ukrainian and Belarusian bishops, still under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, formally asked for union with Rome. One of the reasons they did this is because they did not want to be under the newly formed Moscow Patriarchate. Again they proclaimed that Ukraine is European. This union brought about acts of aggression from people who tried to overturn it. Many martyrs were created in our church.
In 1946, exactly 350 years after the Union of Brest, in Lviv, Ukraine, the Soviets forcefully united the Ukrainian Catholic Church with the Church of Moscow, a church to which Ukraine’s church never belonged to or wanted to belong.
In 1946, exactly 350 years after the Union of Brest, in Lviv, Ukraine, the Soviets forcefully united the Ukrainian Catholic Church with the Church of Moscow, a church to which Ukraine’s church never belonged to or wanted to belong. This act in 1946 led to further attempts to totally liquidate our church. This created one of the greatest persecutions of Christians in history. Only some 25 years ago was the church legalized again after the Soviet Union fell apart.
In the context of all this, the “revolution of dignity” took place in Kyiv. Again the people shout “Ukraine is European”. That is what it always was or wanted to be!
Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM
This article was published in The Church and Life Newspaper, April 2017.