Belgrade, July 5, 2018
President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine met with the patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church during his recent working visit to Belgrade, looking to His Holiness Irinej for support and prayers for Ukraine, reports the president’s official website.
It is noteworthy that Poroshenko did not broach the question of autocephaly for a Ukrainian Church, although this has been his top priority in recent weeks, and the initiative needs the support of the Orthodox Churches around the world.
During the talk, the head of state expressed hope that the Serbian Orthodox Church has supported and will continue to support Ukraine, and he urged the Church head to pray for peace in Ukraine. He also emphasized that Ukraine stands for the territorial integrity of Serbia, referring to the ongoing issues surrounding Kosovo and Metohija.
Pat. Irinej told President Poroshenko that he appreciates the Ukrainian government’s position in regard to Kosovo and the president’s readiness to help in reconstructing and protecting Serbian Orthodox shrines, reports the site of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
However, on the topic of Ukrainian autocephaly, the Serbian Church’s and patriarch’s stance is already well-known, which is likely why Poroshenko thought better of engaging Pat. Irinej in a discussion about it.
At its latest session, from April 28 to May 10, the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church expressed its full support for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, while charging the Ukrainian government with persecution against the Church:
“[T]he Assembly expresses full solidarity, in co-suffering brotherly love, with the martyred sister Church in Ukraine, exposed to the harshest persecution by the current regime in Kiev.”
In his speech upon receiving an award from the International Public Foundation for the Unity of Orthodox Peoples, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej expressed the same strong convictions, lamenting that “The martyric Ukrainian Church—where the holy Prince Vladimir baptized the people of Holy Rus’—is now being defiled by the schismatics’ blasphemy, violence, and bloodshed.”
Moreover, in the patriarch’s view, “Anyone who helps the Ukrainian schismatics,” which includes the Ukrainian government, “is an enemy not only of the Russian Church and the Russian world, but also of all Orthodox Slavic nations and the entire Orthodox world.”
His Holiness also added a sober warning: “The Serbian Church fully supports the unity and integrity of the Russian Orthodox Church and strongly condemns the actions of the Uniates and schismatics who tear apart the robe of Christ at the baptismal font of Kiev, selling their people to the enemies of faith. Their end will be according to their deeds (2 Cor. 11: 15).”
For his strong words, the patriarch was added to a Ukrainian government-backed website, “Mirotvorets,” that compiles and releases personal information about “enemies of Ukraine.”
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