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08KYIV1510, UKRAINE: VISIT OF PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW SPURS

August 4, 2008

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08KYIV1510 2008-08-04 14:40 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKV #1510/01 2171440
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 041440Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6133
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L KYIV 001510 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/24/2016 
TAGS: PHUM PGOV UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE: VISIT OF PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW SPURS 
HOPES FOR UNIFIED ORTHODOX CHURCH 
 
Classified By: Acting PolCouns Robert Scott for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
. 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary:  The Ecumenical Patriarch of 
Constantinople, the spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodoxy, 
arrived in Ukraine on July 24 for a five day visit to 
celebrate the 1,020th anniversary of the christianization of 
the Kyivan Rus.  Although he has no jurisdiction over other 
Orthodox patriarchs, Patriarch Bartholomew I of 
Constantinople is viewed as the spiritual leader and primary 
spokesman for Eastern Orthodoxy and many anticipated his 
visit might help begin resolve the long-running split within 
Ukraine's Orthodox community and lend support for President 
Yushchenko's push to establish a unified Orthodox church free 
from Russian influence. Russian Patriarch Alexiy II also 
attended the celebrations. 
 
2.  (SBU) Comment:  It appears that Yushchenko's gambit to 
invite Bartholomew to the celebrations, despite the apparent 
displeasure of the Russian Orthodox Church, paid off with 
several statements from the Constantinople Patriarch 
expressing general support for an independent and unified 
Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  Resolving the split within 
Ukraine's Orthodox community and limiting the influence of 
Russia, as maintained through Ukraine's largest Orthodox 
community, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow 
Patriarchate, has been an ongoing Yushchenko goal.  This 
visit appears to have given impetus to Yushchenko's hopes for 
greater independence from Russian influence in religious 
affairs.  End of Summary and Comment. 
 
President Pushes for Independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
 
3.  (U) Bartholomew's visit received high level attention, 
with President Yushchenko, senior GoU officials, the leaders 
of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Moscow Patriarchate 
(UOC-MP), Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC), and 
the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) greeting 
Bartholomew I on his arrival at Boryspil Airport on 24 July. 
Many hoped that the Ecumenical Patriarch would take an 
official position on the split between Ukraine's UOC-MP, a 
branch of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), and the 
Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), 
which is not officially recognized by Constantinople and is 
considered to be schismatic by the ROC.  President 
Yushchenko, who has long sought to unify Ukraine's divided 
Orthodox churches under Ukrainian leadership, is viewed as a 
strong supporter of the UOC-KP and its controversial leader 
Patriarch Filaret.  PM Tymoshenko was conspicuously absent 
from the event, claiming she was too busy dealing with the 
recent floods in western Ukraine. 
 
4.  (U) Bartholomew's visit was marked by highly publicized 
ceremonial events at religiously significant sites in Kyiv 
including Sofiyska Square, the Hill of Saint Volodymyr of 
Kyiv, and the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra.  Orthodox leaders from 
several countries were present at the events including the 
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksiy II, who is seen by 
some as a rival of Patriarch Bartholomew.  Orthodox leaders 
from France, Austria, Jerusalem, Albania, Greece, Poland, 
Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania also attended the ceremonies, 
which some observers interpreted as a sign of their support 
for an independent Ukrainian church. 
 
Ecumenical Patriarch Successfully Walks Tightrope 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
5.  (U) Observers anxiously waited to see if Bartholomew 
would take an official position on the status of the feuding 
Ukrainian Orthodox churches.  President Yushchenko was 
clearly hoping that the visit would help to establish an 
independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church separate from the ROC, 
and said that Patriarch Bartholomew,s visit to Ukraine 
provided &important momentum for unification of Ukrainian 
Churches and the faithful.8 At the end of the visit, the 
President expressed his satisfaction that the Ecumenical 
Patriarch supported the will of Ukrainians to have a national 
Church of their own. 
 
6.  (U) For his part, Bartholomew found himself walking a 
fine line between his host's well known desire for him to 
recognize an independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the 
opposition of such a move from Eastern Orthodoxy's most 
powerful national Patriarch, Russian Patriarch Aleksiy II, 
who clearly wants Moscow to maintain its jurisdiction over 
the UOC-MP, Ukraine's largest Orthodox community.  Media 
observers noted that Yushchenko warmly greeted Bartholomew in 
public, but was noticeably more reserved with Aleksiy.  The 
media also commented on the competing posters plastered 
throughout Kyiv of Yushchenko together with Bartholomew and a 
 
separate poster of Aleksiy with the words "Ukraine welcomes 
its own Patriarch".  Media reported that the posters of 
Aleksiy were paid for by Kyiv Party of Regions politician 
Vasyl Horbal. 
 
7.  (U) Throughout his visit, Bartholomew made general 
statements in support of an independent Ukrainian Orthodox 
Church, but stopped short of recognizing an independent 
Ukrainian Church under jurisdi
ction of the Patriarchate of 
Constantinople.  On July 26, he said that the "mother church 
has the right to support within existing Orthodox tradition 
any constructive and promising proposal, which would 
eliminate dangerous splits in the church body as soon as 
possible...Various political and church difficulties caused 
by existing mishmash are obvious and known from the long 
historic past.  Taking care to protect and restore church 
unity is our common duty, which is above any political or 
church goals."  On July 27, Bartholomew and Aleksiy made a 
joint statement, emphasizing their agreement to address all 
issues through dialogue, and to bring all unresolved 
questions to the attention of delegations of both churches. 
 
8.  (U) For his part, Russian Patriarch Aleksiy II called for 
spiritual unity between Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian 
peoples.  Many observers noted that he canceled his planned 
visit to Donetsk scheduled for July 29.  According to the 
press-secretary of the Metropolitan of Donetsk and Mariupol, 
&the Patriarch was very upset. He planned (the trip) and 
seriously intended to visit Donetsk Oblast. However, the trip 
was obstructed by his age and depression over some episodes 
that happened in Kyiv.8 
 
Russian MFA Concerned by Poor Treatment of Aleksiy 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
9.  (U) The media reported that Russia's MFA complained on 
July 25 about the "disrespectful" treatment of the Russian 
Orthodox Church leader and the trampling of sensitivities of 
millions of believers in Russia and Ukraine.  In a 
counterstatement, Ukraine's MFA replied that it was concerned 
about Russian &politicized and unfair8 assessments 
regarding internal events that were put forward &without 
diplomatic delicacy.8  The GoU expressed concern about the 
"unfounded accusation by the Russian side of disrespectful 
treatment of the Russian Orthodox Church clergy during their 
participation in marking the 1,020th anniversary of baptizing 
Kyivan Rus." According to the MFA spokesman, all these 
activities &were in line with national legislation and 
should not have negative implications for high level 
Ukrainian-Russian cooperation.8 
 
Yushchenko Took Risk in inviting Ecumenical Patriarch 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
10.  (C)  Deputy Head of the Presidential Secretary Oleksandr 
Chaliy told DAS Merkel and the Ambassador during a July 25 
meeting that the presence of Aleksiy II represented a "deep 
diplomatic moment" in Ukraine-Russian relations.  According 
to Chaliy, Russian President Medvedev warned Yushchenko a 
month ago that the Russian Patriarch would not attend the 
ceremonies in Kyiv if the Ecumenical Patriarch would be in 
attendance.  The participation of Bartholomew would be seen 
as part of Yushchenko's attempt to legitimize the as yet 
unrecognized independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  Chaliy 
argued that Aleksiy's attendance could therefore be 
characterized as a diplomatic victory for Yushchenko, who 
took a risk by hosting the Ecumenical Patriarch. 
 
11.  (U)  In an interview following the visit, the head of 
the State Committee of Nationalities and Religions (SCNR), 
Oleksandr Sagan, told reporters that despite the ROC's 
attempts to discourage Orthodox leaders from attending the 
celebration, the level of representation was quite high. 
Sagan, who is a strong supporter of Yushchenko's efforts to 
unite Ukraine's Orthodox community, said that Moscow would 
resist a move to unify the divided churches under the 
Patriarchate of Constantinople because it would cause the ROC 
to lose 11,000 UOC-MP parishes, as well as symbolically 
important ties to its historical origins.  Sagan added that 
the unification may happen sooner than expected if "church 
politicians" do not interfere with the process. 
 
Win for Constantinople, Loss for Moscow 
--------------------------------------- 
 
12. (C) Oleksandr Zayets of the Institute for Religious 
Freedom told PolOff on July 31 that President Yushchenko made 
a point of warmly welcoming Bartholomew while "humiliating" 
Aleksiy, probably in retaliation for Russian attempts to 
interfere in Ukrainian affairs he opined.   He said that 
Yushchenko's decision to invite Bartholomew to the 
 
celebration, which was made only a month before the event, 
came as a shock and disappointment to Aleksiy.  Zayets said 
that the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople appeared 
to be gaining the upper hand in its long struggle with the 
Russian Patriarchate for influence over the Orthodox faithful 
throughout the Orthodox world.  Ukraine figured large in the 
calculations of both patriarchs and Zayets expected 
significant changes to come out of an upcoming conference of 
Orthodox leaders in Istanbul later this year.  Zayets 
outlined two possible scenarios coming out of the conference; 
the UOC-KP and Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church joined 
together as a Metropolia under the jurisdiction of the 
Constantinople Patriarchate or an independent Ukrainian 
Orthodox Church led by a patriarch and recognized by 
Constantinople.  In either of these scenarios, he felt that 
the UOC-KP's Patriarch Filaret would vie for church 
leadership.  (Comment:  Relations between the UOC-KP and UAOC 
have been tense since their unification talks failed two 
years ago.  Their respective leaders, Filaret and Mefodiy, 
were unable to agree on who should lead an independent 
Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  End Comment.) Zayets saw the 
absence of both Filaret and Mefodiy during the visit as a 
possible sign that they have overcome their past differences. 
 He felt that many of the UOC-MP faithful currently belonging 
to its 11,000 parishes would switch allegiance to an 
independent Ukrainian church. 
 
13. (C) Zayets commented that Aleksiy's heavy-handed efforts 
to exert influence through the UOC-MP in the lead-up to the 
celebration backfired because of his disrespectful attitude 
towards Ukrainian sensitivities.  He believed that the 
Russian Orthodox Church and GoR may consider a reorganization 
of church/state relations and a shake-up of those responsible 
for foreign relations within the ROC because of Yushchenko's 
perceived success in thwarting ROC ambitions during the 
celebration.  He said that Aleksiy's decision to not visit 
Donetsk on July 29 was likely due to expected poor turn-out 
of the faithful because of their sense of alienation towards 
Aleksiy as well as traditional apathy of churchgoers in the 
oblast.  Zayets noted that Prime Minister Tymoshenko was 
conspicuously absent during the visit and did not believe her 
explanation that she was too busy with the floods in western 
Ukraine.   He said her absence was more likely due to her 
ongoing differences with Yushchenko and noted that even 
opposition leader and former PM Yanukovych met separately 
with Bartholomew during his visit. 
 
14.  (U) Visit Embassy Kyiv's classified website: 
www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/kie
v. 
PETTIT

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