RISU – September 2016
Former Presidents of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk and Victor Yushchenko were negotiating with the Ecumenical Patriarch on Ukrainian church issue, and the possible granting of autocephaly.
Recently, Ukrainian media have reported that the first and third presidents of Ukraine visited Constantinople and met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to discuss religious issues.
The press service of BBC Ukraine confirmed information about Leonid Kravchuk’s visit but refused to disclose its details.
This is not the first visit of the former presidents to Patriarch Bartholomew to address the church issue. For the first time, the two presidents’ church mission was reported in August 2015 by the Greek religious news agency Romfea, which highlights the life of the churches subordinated to the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Then the ex-presidents and the Patriarch Bartholomew talked throughout two hours“about the political situation and ecclesiastical crisis in Ukraine.”
In 2015, Leonid Kravchuk and Viktor Yushchenko told the Patriarch that they see “the role of the Mother Church in addressing the ecclesial schism in Ukraine.”
In late August 2016, yet another similar mission of Yushchenko andKravchuk was carried out.
“The visit took place indeed, I confirm this,” said Leonid Kravchuk’ assistant Oksana Sibirtseva to BBC Ukraine.
However, she noted that Leonid Kravchuk cannot give any comments on the trip, being on vacation. She stressed it was a private visit
A spokesman for the UOC-KP Bishop Yevstratii (Zorya) in an interview with BBC Ukraine called “correct” the strategy of negotiation participants not to disclose details of the talks, “not to play up to Russia and not give it too much information.”
He assured that he is familiar with the specific details of the visit of Yushchenkoand Kravchuk.
“I know that the president handed over to the Patriarch five thousand signatures of Ukrainian intelligentsia application for granting autocephalous status to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine,” said Archbishop Yevstratii.
He recalled that the president traveled to Turkey a year ago, but this time, the circumstances have changed through the formal appeal of the Verkhovna Rada regarding autocephaly.
“This is done in order that Ecumenical Patriarch saw that this initiative does not come from the President or the Council but from all groups of the population,” the hierarch.
Religious expert and member of the parliamentary committee on culture and spirituality Victor Yelenskyy stresses that the Church in Ukraine is separated from the state, and therefore it is logical that these visits are private.
“It is normal when public figures without official status get involved. But they have significant social and political weight,” said the expert. However, he notes that one should not expect a prompt solution from Patriarch Bartholomew because he fears the split with Moscow.
“Ecumenical Patriarch in difficult situations, he cannot quickly make a decision on Ukraine. He fears a split in the Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church demarche,” said the expert.
Victor Yelenskyy reminds that in 1996 the Church in Estonia received autocephalous status through the restoration of Constantinople’sTomos of 1926.
It followed by the breakup in the relations between Moscow and Constantinople for two years.
Subsequently, a compromise was reached so that in Estonia two canonical Orthodox Churches coexist – the one subordinate to Constantinople and another one to Moscow, and the parishes may choose where they belong.
In recent years the issue of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was one of the most important in the political life of the country.