Ukrainian archbishop: Russian victory could put minorities' faiths in peril

A top-ranking Ukrainian Catholic priest warned the United States Thursday that Russian control could lead to the destruction of religious minorities.

Ukrainian archbishop: Russian victory could put minorities' faiths in peril

This warning came as fighting continued for more than a month following the Russian invasion.

The Orthodox, Muslims, and Catholics are at greatest risk, Archbishop Borys Gudziak stated. He also mentioned reports that Russian forces had damaged two Holocaust memorials, and Moscow's false portrayal Ukraine as a "Nazi state," citing the fact that Volodymyr Zelenskyy elected a Jewish president.

Gudziak stated that "what is at stake for people of faith is the freedom to practice faith," during an online panel discussion on war hosted by the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University.

He continued, "Ukrainian Catholics have been strangled every time there has been a Russian occupation of their homes and ministries for the past 250 years."

Gudziak heads the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy in Philadelphia and is also president of Ukrainian Catholic University Lviv, Ukraine. Gudziak also manages the external relations of the Kyiv-based Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The church's name refers to its loyalty and use of Greek or Byzantine liturgy. It is comparable to the majority Orthodox population of Ukraine.

According to the archbishop, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (which broke away from the Moscow patriarchate and was recognized by Constantine's EcumenicalPatriarch in 2019 over fierce opposition from Moscow) "will undoubtedly be crushed" if Russia is invading.

Guziak didn't mention the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. This church is distinct from the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Guziak has also remained loyal to Moscow patriarch Kirill, who is a strong supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Despite this historical fealty the Ukrainian Orthodox Church leaders have fiercely condemned the Russian invasion and in certain cases, are refusing Kirill's names in public prayers. This is a ritually potent snub.

Kirill supports Putin's justifications of war. He claims that both Russia and Ukraine are part of a "Russian World" and alleges that the U.S. They have also encouraged enmity among them by supporting foreign forces.

Gudziak also mentioned the peril of Muslim Tatars, who have been "persecuted for the last eight years" after Russia annexed Crimea Peninsula in southern Ukraine.

The U.S. State Department also condemned intimidation and harassment of Tatars, and other religious groups, in Crimea and the areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Moscow's "aggression against religious freedom (in these territories) is an indication that much worse will come... as Russia expands into Ukraine."

Gudziak dismissed Russia's claim that it is on an offensive to Ukraine. The Russian Zelenskyy won the election with 73%. He said that such altruistic claims also sound hollow given the damage done to Holocaust memorials in Kyiv, and close to Kharkiv.

"All who want to live in freedom will suffer a great deal or even everything." Gudziak stated that Ukrainians are at risk if there is an occupation. "What is at stake in Europe and the wider world is the advancement of ideologies, systems, and worldviews that oppress people?"


 

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