By Michael Swan
TORONTO, Canada (The Catholic Register) – What might be called the messy, Ukrainian spirituality of democracy is threatened by more than 100,000 Russian troops on the border and a propaganda war that pretends Ukrainians and Russians are all part of one Orthodox and Slavic nation, according to the founder of the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in Toronto.
“Ukrainians have had this messy, democratic bent for hundreds of years,” said Right Rev. Andriy Chirovsky, Mitred Archpriest of the Ukrainian Byzantine Rite Catholic Church. “Democracy is messy. Authoritarianism is neat. The Russians – I feel sorry for them – they have never lived under a democratic government.”
Ukraine’s independent and democratic spirit has driven both Catholic and Orthodox Ukrainians to declare their independence from the Moscow Patriarchate, with Catholics aligned with Rome and more than half the Orthodox of Ukraine now part of the independent Orthodox Ukrainian Church, granted self-government by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2019.
The Moscow Patriarchate’s dependence on Putin and his oligarchs has driven the Russian propaganda war against Ukraine, said Chirovsky. Moscow Patriarch Kirill and Russian president Vladimir Putin have both decried the independence of the churches in Ukraine as a Western plot to separate the greater Slav nation spiritually, culturally and politically.
Chirovsky has his doubts.
“He (Putin) says we are one people. We’re not one people,” he said. “When the Rus people received Christianity in 988, Moscow did not exist. Moscow was founded 200 years later.”
Chirovsky believes that if Ukraine is to maintain its independence and nurture its young democracy, the United States and United Kingdom will have to live up to their signatures on the 1994 “Memorandum on Security Assurances” – the Budapest Memorandum. In a deal signed by Russia’s current foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and then Russian president Boris Yeltsin, the US., UK, and Russia guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine giving up the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal at the end of the Cold War.
The short memorandum, which has been filed with the United Nations Security Council to give it the status of a treaty, commits the signatories “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”
“Well one of those three (signatories) has invaded it already and stolen territory,” Chirovsky said. “What’s going on in the east of Ukraine, it’s not Russian-backed. It’s Russian-led.”
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