When I say “pastoral visit,” I don’t load this term with any paternalism whatsoever, with any “looking down on” whatsoever. I came here as a pilgrim.
I learn constantly and it's not a cliche: I like hearing people's voices, conjugating this diverse choir of human thought. When I say “pastoral visit” — I came here as a pilgrim, to pray and ponder with the congregation.
In other statements, Patriarch Kirill poses as a boss, not as a pilgrim or a preacher. After all, thanks to a twist of history, he runs Ukraine’s biggest church: the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate).
I took the liberty of dissecting some of his statements.
President Yushchenko: Naturally, the greatest aspiration of the Ukrainian people is to live in a unified, whole, local, first-apostolic church.
Naturally, President Yushchenko overstated his case. The church is hardly the #1 value in any secular industrial society: The quality of life is. Nevertheless, having a unified church that does not take orders from the Kremlin would be good for Ukraine’s independence.
And bad for the Kremlin.
Patriarch Kirill: This church, Mr. President, does exist. There is an local church in Ukraine. If there wasn’t, there would be no Ukraine today. There’s no imperialism here whatsoever, no domination of one over the other. There’s a clear Orthodox ecclesiology here: the Patriarch is the father — for everyone. Regardless of the color of the passport in your pocket, the state we live in — he is the father of all who belong to the Orthodox Church that falls under the single jurisdiction headed by the Patriarch.
Your Holiness, are you elaborating on Lenin’s famous quote “Есть такая партия!” (“There is a party like that!”)?
Speaking of history, I thought Christianity came to Moscow via Kyiv, not the other way around. Also, I thought the church in Moscow had been part of the Kyiv Metropoly until proclaiming itself autocephalous in 1448. Why do you think that Moscow’s efforts to secure independence from Constantinople are holier than Kyiv’s efforts to secure independence from Moscow?
On top of that, I thought Moscow was founded by the Prince of Kyiv, and not the other way around. Which brings us to the ultimate question: Are you here because of Christ or because of Caesar?
Some people think you're here because of Caesar.
President Yushchenko and Patriarch Kirill exchanged the above statements while attending the Holodomor Memorial on June 27 — each in their own way, as you can see. After all, the Holodomor is something that Russia rarely recognizes, much less claims any responsibility for.
No wonder, Patriarch Kirill, who presides over the pro-Russian branch of Ukraine’s Orthodoxy, said the following about the Holodomor:
A famine, a terrible famine wrought by concrete political causes and complicated by, also, natural cataclysms led to great numbers of people perishing — in Ukraine, Povolzhye, North Caucasus, Southern Urals, Western Siberia, Kazakhstan. It’s a common hardship of the entire people that lived, at that time, in one country.
Patriarch Kirill also expressed hope that “the tragic circumstances of our history will not foster the development of fraternal hate-mongering historiography.”
Your Holiness, sweeping genocide under the rug is not a brotherly thing to do.
Technically, the Jews who perished at Auschwitz, Treblinka, Buchenwald and Babyn Yar and the Germans who killed them had lived in one country: The Third Reich. Now, according to some historians, up to 150,000 Jews served in the Wehrmacht. Moreover, the Germans certainly killed more Slavs than Jews. Does that relegate the Holocaust to a non-event? Does that dilute Germany’s moral responsibility for the Holocaust? Did a million of Russians starve during the Blockade of Leningrad because of “natural cataclysms?” Bad weather? Crop failure?
According to your logic, probably yes. According to German law, definitely no.
Keeping in mind that Russia is the sole legal successor to the Soviet Union, how can we be sure it won’t happen again if we dilute responsibility?
As Patriarch Kirill basked in publicity, his bag of tricks grew all the more paternalistic, moralistic and apologetic. It exploded in a live-broadcast prime-time interview on Inter, Ukraine’s #1 television channel, on June 29.
Just a few quotes, gleaned from various sources (unfortunately, I didn’t watch the interview):
When nowadays I’m being told that in order to acquire the Ukrainian national self-identity, we need new names that divide Ukrainian believers — I’m not even talking about Russians and Ukrainians — but names that divide Ukraine itself, this logic eludes me.
I am deeply convinced that in Ukraine there should be no experimenting with names that divide the country itself.
Your Holiness, I don’t recall John Paul II being that judgmental and mentorial toward Ukrainians during his June 2001 visit here. That’s despite the fact that Poles and Ukrainians had fought each other bitterly throughout history and have different historical perspectives.
Or how about this one:
Recently, the Council of Europe adopted some resolution that places Nazism and Stalinism on an equal footing. I’m no proponent or defender of that Stalin era. But here’s what we should now perhaps think about. Both Nazism and Stalinism are repressions, including those against their own people, as is the case with many other regimes that existed. But how does Nazism differ from any other system? It differs by its hate-mongering.
Your Holiness, are you saying Stalinism involved less hate-mongering — and perhaps more humanism? Based on what calculus? If we compare the number of Russians (alone) who died from Stalin’s repressions with the number of Germans who died from Hitler’s repressions, which number will be greater — much greater?
Stalinism is a repressive regime and, in a sense, a criminal regime because as a result of this regime’s actions innocent people were dying. That said, it was the Soviet Union that laid the biggest sacrifice on the altar of liberating both its own country and the entire world from what had posed a threat to the entire human civilization.
So, to prevent the 25 million lives lost by the Soviet Union in WW II from falling into oblivion, one should describe Stalinism as the lesser of two evils? And we can talk about the Soviet Union's liberation of Eastern Europe from Nazism without mentioning the strings attached by Stalin?
Can we remember our human sacrifice — unmatched by any Western or Eastern country — by repressing the facts of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact?
Can we honor those millions of people by keeping mum on Stalin’s cannon-fodder warfare and post-WW II Gulag?