On Tuesday, February 17, 2015 President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko held a meeting with the Nationwide Council of Churches and Religious Organizations of Ukraine at the Presidential Administration in Kyiv, Ukraine. Upon the invitation of President of Ukraine, the hierarchs of the Permanent Conference of the Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops Beyond the Borders of Ukraine participated in the meeting.
In his introductory remarks, the Head of Ukrainian State thanked the attendees for the support of the Ukrainian statehood, sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and spirit. “I urge you to continue guardianship over the people in these difficult times, because spiritual support and kind words can be more effective than material goods. Together we can show an example of state-church partnership in the solution of difficult problems and healing wounds of our people and country,” President Poroshenko said.
The President has reminded that prayer and support of the spiritual fathers of various religious communities helped Ukrainians in the course of the Revolution of Dignity. “The word of God was heard day and night. It was guiding us and charging us with energy,” he noted. Petro Poroshenko has urged to support the Ukrainian servicemen who are defending Ukraine from the aggression.
The President has also thanked the representatives of churches and religious organizations who have enough courage to serve in the Crimea. “It is very important, for it is a form of Ukrainian presence in the temporarily occupied Crimea,” he stressed.
The Head of State has emphasized that all churches and religious organizations in Ukraine had equal rights. Herewith Petro Poroshenko has drawn attention to the fact that the information war of Russia was touching upon religious issues in order to split the Ukrainian society. Almost 20% of propaganda is related to religion.“I have no doubt that we will repel this informational aggression,” the President noted.
In his turn, representatives of churches and religious organizations have noted that they were praying daily for Ukraine and her military units and the ATO area. Welcoming the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the USA: His Eminence Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel, and the hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada: His Eminence Metropolitan Yuriy, Bishop Ilarion and Bishop Andriy, the President offered words of gratitude to the spiritual leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox communities in Diaspora for their prayers and support of various charitable initiatives in these troubled times of Ukrainian history.
His Eminence Metropolitan Yuriy, spoke in behalf of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada, assuring President Poroshenko of the prayers and support of the Church in Canada and the fact that members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Bishops beyond the Borders of Ukraine had come to Ukraine to commemorate the Nebesna Sotnya who perished on the Maidan at this, the first anniversary of the tragedy. His Eminence also recalled the great contributions of the First Metropolitan of the Church in Canada and prior to this also served as Metropolitan of Kholm in Ukraine before immigrating to Canada. He emphasized the soon to open Museum about Metropolitan Ilarion’s life and contributions to Ukrainian and the Church later this year.
Responding to the greetings of President Poroshenko, His Eminence Metropolitan Antony stated that he was deeply moved by the President’s invitation to participate in the Council of Churches meeting, feeling almost unworthy to be present among the “brothers” present because they are the ones who suffer daily in the leadership of their faith-groups in response to the horrific invasion of Ukrainian territory. His Eminence stressed, however, that the President and all present should know that the faithful across the ocean suffer equally at the events affecting our native land and her people. He also assured the President of the prayers of the faithful of our Church at each liturgical celebration almost every day. He stated that he felt that he was fairly well-informed about what was taking place in Ukraine today through the mass media of the USA and his reading on the internet, but discovered when he arrived in Ukraine and began looking at television – on almost every channel – seeing the unaltered version of the reality of the battle against terrorism. The visit will greatly assist him in relating to his faithful at home what the reality of life in Ukraine is today.
The participants of the meeting have also discussed the issue of liquidation of the expert commission for the protection of public morale. The President has noted that society should have a reliable protection from the steps that ruin public morale. Still, it shouldn’t be an issue of a state bureaucratic body, which has discredited itself.
In conclusion, the President thanked the religious leaders of Ukraine and Diaspora for their participating in the meeting and quoting the Scriptures stated that it is a sacred responsibility of each citizen and friend of Ukraine to offer himself/herself in the service of their brethren for the sake of peace, love and justice.
Metropolitan Antony and Bishop Daniel presented the President with the set of “History of Ukrainian Orthodox Church” by Professor Ivan Wlasovsky and a reproduction of the Statue of Liberty, a universal symbol of freedom, which stirs the desire for freedom in people all over the world. The statue, representing the United States of America is also a symbol of freedom and aspiration for by the people of Ukraine in these trouble times in the history of modern Ukraine.