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Why Putin fears the Ukrainian Catholic Church

Why Putin fears the Ukrainian Catholic Church
Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

Vladimir Putin’s assistant Yuri Ushakov said that the situation in Ukraine would be one of the central themes of the meeting on Wednesday, June 10, between Putin and Pope Francis. In itself the statement is not at all surprising. Especially since, in addition to Ukraine,  Putin also intends to discuss a number of other issues with the pope, including the situation of Christians in the Middle East — a priority for the Vatican.

But something else is of interest. Putin is preparing to discuss the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with the pope. Ushakov specifically noted that during the discussions on Ukraine they may mention “aspects of Uniate activity in the country.” And one can assume that the pope will not hear anything positive. Even the phrase used by Ushakov appears to be copied from a Soviet history textbook, where it was explained how the Uniate traitors fought with the Orthodox on Ukrainian and Belorusian lands and promoted the “Western infection.” The expression was strange even then: the Bolsheviks, as is well known, themselves fought brutally with the Orthodox Church and is fact destroyed it. But this definition was taken from imperial history textbooks. Everything was clear there. “Little Russia” and Belarus are all Russian. Orthodoxy is the Russian faith. Uniates are agents of the West. Now  everything has fallen into place.

And, by the way, the destruction of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church after the Second World War was important proof that the Communists were returning to the old imperial doctrine. These were not only repressions against the church. These were primarily repressions against civilization — Ukrainian and European. And when the Ukrainian Catholic Church began its revival during the years of Perestroika, its priests were told they did not belong here. Why didn’t they belong? Because, according to the Russian view, Ukraine is the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is Russian land. And the “Uniates,” associated with the Vatican, would only sow doubts about the correctness of this thesis. And this is why there was nothing wrong in Stalin’s decision to destroy the “foreign church.” Stalin knew what he was doing.

Vladimir Putin obviously considers himself the heir to Stalin. He even has additional opportunities: the Russian president, for example, can complain about the activity of the “Uniates” to the Pope himself. And the fact that he is the head of a secular state that is supposed to guarantee the equality of religions is of no concern to Putin. Because, despite all the constitutional norms, the government of that state decides by itself exactly which denominations are to be supported and which ones are to be declared “harmful.”

In Russia itself life is not that simple for the Roman Catholics either, much less for the Greek Catholics. And since in Putin’s mind Ukraine is also Russia, then there can be no room for the “Uniates” in the country coveted by the new emperor. And perhaps it is a good thing that Vladimir Putin will discuss all this with the Pope, so that the latter has, as they say, no more illusions.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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