The Plight of the Ukrainian Catholic Church under Glasnost
by Andriy Chirovsky
With the advent of glasnost and perestroika under Mikhail Gorbachev, all people of good will are expected to be properly edified by the amazing progress which the Soviet Union is making in treating its citizens as human beings. It is therefore particularly agonizing for the five million or so Ukrainian Catholics in the U.S.S.R. and their one million brothers and sisters beyond the borders to watch as the world politely overlooks the difficult truth. The truth is that the state-controlled Russian Orthodox church (Moscow patriarchate), which has led a relatively privileged existence (among Soviet religious groups), has benefited tremendously under perestroika, while the severely persecuted Ukrainian Catholic church has in the same period seen no end to repressions, and in fact, has experienced a renewed onslaught from the government working together with the Moscow patriarchate.
The frightening thing is that the rest of the world does not want to hear about this, let alone do anything about it. People find it refreshing that the Moscow patriarchate is featured on Soviet television, that Gorbachev has met with Patriarch Pimen, that hundreds of Russian Orthodox Churches are being opened. Indeed, it is cause for rejoicing, since the many simple believers of the Russian Orthodox church deserve this. It is cause for rejoicing, but it is not cause for forgetfulness. The millions of Ukrainian Catholics who have not reaped the benefits of restructuring cannot be swept under the carpet, as if their mortal peril were a case of needless whining. There are many in the West who are rightly tired of years of cold war and vociferous animosity toward the Soviet Union. Wanting to “get on with things” and be friendly with the Russians has caused some to grow impatient with those who, in their view, hold on to old hurts, such as the Ukrainian Catholics. But the simple truth is that the Ukrainian Catholics are the victims of new hurts, a dangerous new situation conceivable only in the heady days of perestroika.
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