VATICAN (ChurchMilitant.com) - A leading campaigner for persecuted Christians is blasting Pope Francis for sacrificing Ukrainian Catholics on the altar of ecumenism to appease the Russian Orthodox Church.
In a podcast for The Spectator, the world's oldest weekly magazine, Fr. Benedict Kiely accused Francis of throwing Ukrainian Catholics "under a steamroller" by signing an ecumenical concordat with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
By signing the Havana Declaration with Kirill at their 2016 meeting in Cuba, Francis has "declared invalid all the previous ways of union when one group of Christians joins the Catholic Church," Kiely, founder of Nasarean.org, said.
The priest cited the controversial declaration, noting that "it is today clear that the past method of 'uniatism,' understood as the union of one community with the other separating it from its Church, is not the way to re-establish unity."
"And it is also specifically calling them 'Uniates,' which they hate," Kiely, a champion of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, stressed. "To have that agreed is not putting them under the bus (as the Greek Catholics felt); they've been thrown under a steamroller."
"As a member of the ordinariate, I find it peculiar that an argument is made that groups of separated Christians must not be received — rather insultingly called 'uniatism,'" Fr. Kiely, a priest belonging to a body of Anglican converts to Catholicism, told Church Militant.
"If, for example, a large group of Ukrainian Orthodox, with their bishop, asked to be revived into the Ukrainian Catholic Church, would they be refused, and, if so, why?" he asked, noting that the Church was the world's largest Eastern rite church — with over 5 million Catholics.
Kiely also told Church Militant that "the naming of Major Abp. Svjatoslav Ševčuk as patriarch of the Ukrainian Catholic Church would be an immensely positive contribution by Pope Francis to the morale of the Ukrainian people. It is something the Church deserves, and the idea that it might disrupt ecumenism is now a moot point."
"This is the time for Pope Francis to make an act of charity, an act of generosity — and name Abp. Ševčuk as the patriarch of Ukraine," Kiely said in his podcast. "They invented this title, 'major' archbishop, when Cdl. Josyf Slipyj was released from Soviet jail."
"It's never been used before in the life of the Church. Right up to the time of his death, Slipyj was continually asking for the title of 'patriarch' — not for himself, but to support his persecuted Church, which was only allowed to be legal in Ukraine in 1989," Kiely said, arguing that "the Russian Orthodox Church and all Orthodox churches have patriarchs."
Slipyj was in prison from 1946 to 1963. The "white martyr" was in camps in Siberia and had his bones broken. He was released and forced into exile in the Vatican right at the beginning of the Ostpolitik, and his cause for canonization is progressing, Kiely added.
The Vatican has consistently said "no," and there's a very simple reason which, I would say, now, in 2022, especially with what's going on with the Russian invasion, is no longer valid — and that it has been about ecumenism with the Russian Orthodox Church.
If the leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was given the title of "patriarch," this will cause problems — and perhaps destroy any possibility of ecumenical talks or unity with the Russian Orthodox Church. This has been going on for nearly 60 years.
If we speak with complete transparency and honesty, we will have to say that the Catholic Church has done everything in its power to make life easy for the Russian Orthodox — and gives continually in ecumenical dialogue. There's been nothing, nothing in return.
Noting that the Vatican policy over the last 60 years had failed (and that popes since Paul VI failed to support Ukrainian Catholics), the advocate for persecuted Christians also urged Francis to elevate Ševčuk to the College of Cardinals.
"The question of why Abp. Ševčuk is not a cardinal is a lot more to do with this current papacy," Kiely said — responding to podcast host Damian Thompson's claim that the Ukrainian archbishop was denied a red hat because he considered signing the dubia over Francis' controversial apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
"Pope Pius XII was very supportive and very strong, but then we got to this period in the 1960s where the doctrine of Ostpolitik, championed by Pope Paul VI, emerged — which was basically to try to find some accommodation, in theory, to allow the Church to survive," Kiely lamented.
Kiely said Vatican discrimination against Eastern rite Catholics was reflected in the refusal to allow Ukrainian married priests to serve their communities in the United States — an 85-year-old Vatican ban that was lifted by Pope Francis in 2014.
Over 200,000 Ukrainian Catholics became Orthodox after the prohibition on married priests, known as Cum Data Fuerit, was promulgated in 1929.
However, "the Vatican was not forcing the Latinization of the Byzantine liturgy in Ukraine," Kiely said. "Rather, a group of Ukrainian Catholics joined the Society of St. Pius X because they wanted to be more Latin, and they felt the Ukrainian Catholic Church was becoming too Byzantine."
Speaking to Church Militant, French theologian and cultural commentator Fr. Athanasius St. Michel surmised that "the passivity of the pope in the face of this dangerous and dreadful conflict appears to flow from his relativism, which creates a kind of paralysis."
"What is required from him is the active support and leadership of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the formulation of an urgent ecumenical rapprochement with the two Orthodox jurisdictions in Ukraine," St. Michel observed.
"For Francis to discourage any Catholic from evangelizing any non-Catholic is shocking, of course. It encourages Catholics to believe one of several scandalous things — like the truth of being in union with Rome is of no theological significance," Dr. John Zmirak, a senior editor at The Stream, said. He added, "Then why should we listen to a pope like him on any subject, including this one?"
Zmirak, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism, elaborated in comments to Church Militant:
And here's the real kicker, the point Francis actually cares about: Fierce particular loyalties to Church, country, family or other institutions are evil. They must be liquidated in favor of a bland, weak, docile attachment to vast, abstract generalities. Not Ukraine or Russia, but "Europe." Not the Orthodox or Catholic Church, but "people of faith." Not my home and family, but "humanity" — or even "the biosphere."
The point is to break down any obstacle to the exercise of centralized power by the people Francis actually cares about and respects — the Klaus Schwabs, George Soroses and Bill Gateses of this world. The "lords of the world," if you will.
On the day that Francis signed the Havana Declaration in February 2016, Ševčuk told the media that "today, a lot of believers spoke to me and said they feel betrayed by the Vatican."
"This text led to deep disappointment among many believers in our Church and other concerned Ukrainians," the archbishop lamented in the interview, published on the Church's official website.
"I encourage our faithful not to dramatize this declaration — and not to exaggerate its importance for Church life. We have experienced more than one such statement and will survive this one as well," Ševčuk said.
"For a document that was intended to be not theological, but essentially sociopolitical, it is hard to imagine a weaker team than the one that drafted this text," he added.
Italian commentator and Vaticanist Sandro Magister acknowledged that "the 5 million Ukrainian Catholics know very well they are the true obstacle to the encounter between the pope of Rome and the patriarch of Moscow."
"But they will not agree to be sacrificed on the altar of this ecumenical dream," Magister noted.