Why is Rome sidelining the Ukrainian Catholics?
Catholic Herald, 19 June 2018
Recent events show growing resentment within the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Relations between the largest of the eastern Catholic Churches, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), and the Holy See have been frayed in recent years, as the former has found the latter’s support lacking in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine in general and the UGCC in particular.
Ukrainian Catholics believe that the Holy See wants to maintain good relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, which is strongly allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The consequence is that the Holy See does not protest too strongly against Putin’s aggression in Ukraine.
Two events in May suggest that those frayed relations are not going to be repaired soon.
First, there was the consistory for new cardinals announced on Pentecost Sunday. Leading the list of 11 new cardinal electors was Louis Raphaël I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Church, Iraq’s principal eastern Catholic Church. Creating the patriarch a cardinal was widely seen as sign of solidarity with the suffering Iraqi Catholics.
In 2016, Pope Francis did a similar thing for Syria, though that time he did not choose an actual Syrian bishop for cardinal, but rather the Italian serving as nuncio in Damascus.
Yet in five consistories for the creation of new cardinals, Pope Francis has passed over Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the UGCC and major archbishop of Kiev. Shevchuk’s predecessors have all been cardinals dating back to time when the UGCC – liquidated by Stalin – was the largest underground Church in the world.
Pope Francis is charting a new course in the selection of cardinals, but even given the idiosyncratic nature of his choices, it is evident that suffering Churches and suffering peoples are favoured with cardinals. That Ukraine has been overlooked now five times in five years suggests that Ukrainian suffering resonates less in Rome than the objections of the Russian Orthodox, who regard the very existence of the UGCC as an affront.
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