I fully expect a flood of commentary on Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill’s Joint Declaration in the coming days. A brief scan of the Inter-webs reveals a noticeable number of traditionalist Orthodox and Catholics rending their garments over it. Greek Catholics have also started to express mixed feelings, including Fr. Peter Galadza, Director of the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in Ottawa, Ontario. Here are his (brief) thoughts:
The inability to get any kind of reference in the joint statement to foreign aggression in Ukraine is a major flaw in an otherwise decent statement – Ukrainians worldwide will be very disappointed. And Antonii Pakanych’s (metropolitan of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate) prominence in the Moscow Patriarchate delegation without anyone even remotely representative of Eastern Catholicism (not to mention Ukrainian Greek Catholicism) is also very unfortunate.
It’s debatable whether or not the absence of “foreign aggression” language constitutes a “major flaw” given that the central purpose of the Declaration — at least as advertised — is to rally support for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East. I would argue that the absence of stronger language condemning the role of Islamic extremism in these persecutions (and the persecutions of other religious minorities in the region) represents a bigger flaw in the document. After all, consider paragraph #26:
26. We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.
No, the paragraph does not “name names,” but that’s a prudent gesture considering the circumstances. While Russia’s activities in Ukraine are undoubtedly immoral and certainly illegal from the perspective of contemporary international law, the cost of the Declaration saddling Russia with a bulk of the blame far outweighs the benefits of bringing the Pope and the Russian Patriarch together with an eye toward real reconciliation between East and West.
Where I agree wholeheartedly with Fr. Galadza is with respect to the lack of representation from the Greek Catholic Church at the Pope/Patriarch meeting. It seems that Rome is once again treating its Eastern Catholic brethren as second-class citizens whose existence is merely tolerated rather than celebrated. No doubt Moscow requested that no “Uniates” be on sight during the get-together.