Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko welcomes Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to Kiev, May 25. (Mykhailo Markiv/AFP/Getty Images)
June 26, 2008 From theTrumpet.com
Vatican inroads into Ukraine are facilitating a strategic alliance between the Roman Catholic Church and her Eastern Orthodox sisters. By Andrew Miiller
As the Vatican goes about expanding its influence further and further east, it has now set its sights on Ukraine. That is why Pope Benedict xvi sent his right-hand man, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, to Ukraine in late May. During his trip, Bertone met with high-level Ukrainian political and religious leaders to discuss issues relating to Christian unity and European integration. At the end of his trip, the vice prime minister of Ukraine thanked Bertone for the Vatican’s support of Ukraine’s aspirations to enter the European Union.
Upon returning home to Vatican City, Bertone expressed his conviction that Ukraine is a vital crossroads between the cultures of East and West. He went on to emphasize the need for religious dialogue between Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians in an attempt to forge further bonds of unity between the churches. This call for unity is picking up momentum from Rome to Kiev to Constantinople—and not just on the Catholic side.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church is an Eastern rite church that still pledges fidelity to the pope of Rome. Its major archbishop, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev, has for some time been proposing that a unified Ukrainian patriarchate for all Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, should be established. To facilitate this goal, he has also been calling for a system of “dual unity” that would allow his church to establish full communion with the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople while maintaining communion with Rome.
Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew i has responded favorably to this suggestion, saying it would produce a situation in the Christian world akin to the one that existed before the Catholic-Orthodox split in a.d. 1054. Bartholomew says the people of both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have come together at the grassroots level and are now waiting for church leaders to reach agreements on remaining doctrinal questions.
Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic leaders have already drafted a joint consensus declaring the pope’s primacy over all Catholic and Orthodox bishops. If attempts by the Ukrainian Catholic Church to establish “dual unity” work out, it will signal another major mile marker on the road toward communion between Latin Rite Catholics, Eastern Rite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians.
Such an agreement would also likely pull the Kiev Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church into closer communion with both Rome and Constantinople. This patriarchate consists of Orthodox Ukrainians who have separated themselves from the Patriarchate of Moscow for nationalistic reasons. While this group does not yet pledge fidelity to Rome, it is friendly to the Roman Catholic Church because it longs to break away from Russian influence and further integrate with the European community.
The one group that probably would not move any closer to the Vatican would be the Moscow Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Patriarch Alexei ii of the Russian Orthodox Church is a staunch Russian nationalist who is rumored to have ties to the kgb. He wants to maintain his ecumenical control over all Christians in Ukraine and is therefore resentful over Catholic efforts to proselytize in Russia and its Commonwealth of Independent States.
As tensions build among the Ukrainian people over whether they want to remain in Russia’s sphere of influence or throw their lot in with a forming United States of Europe, religion is going to play a major factor. Catholic and Orthodox Christians who take the European side are going to have little choice but to rely more and more upon the Vatican for support. Those who take the Russian side are going to have to look to Moscow, because the other patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox Church are already moving closer and closer to Rome.
For over 40 years, until his death in 1986, Plain Truth editor in chief Herbert W. Armstrong foretold that the Roman Catholic Church would pull its Protestant daughters and Eastern Orthodox sisters back into its fold as it rose up to rule over a united Europe. The November 1963 issue stated, “The mighty problem of achieving [Catholic] unity is two-fold. First, it involves reconciliation of the Orthodox schism that officially commenced in 1054 and divided the churches in the East—Greece, Russia, the Balkans and the Near East—from Rome. Second, it involves the restoration to the Roman Communion all Protestantism which developed from 1517 onward.”
Russian political opposition to a Catholic-dominated European Union may present a future stumbling block to the Vatican’s efforts to reabsorb the Russian Orthodox Church, but that will not stop Rome from reabsorbing the Orthodox patriarchates of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Roman Catholicism is indeed about to become the religion of a united Europe.