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09KYIV1172, PATRIARCH KIRILL’S VISIT AND UKRAINE’S ORTHODOX

July 10, 2009

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09KYIV1172 2009-07-10 15:43 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Kyiv

VZCZCXYZ0011
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHKV #1172/01 1911543
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 101543Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8109
INFO RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW PRIORITY 0461
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 0017

UNCLAS KYIV 001172 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: KIRF PGOV PHUM PREL UP
SUBJECT: PATRIARCH KIRILL'S VISIT AND UKRAINE'S ORTHODOX 
DIVIDE 
 
(U) Sensitive but unclassified, please handle accordingly. 
 
Summary 
------- 
 
1.  (SBU) Church leaders in Ukraine are preparing for the 
visit of Kirill, Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church 
(ROC) later this month.  The Ukrainian branch of the ROC 
hopes to avoid controversy by emphasizing the religious 
purpose of Kirill's visit.  The second largest Orthodox 
community in Ukraine, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv 
Patriarchate, has expressed concern about Patriarch Kirill's 
alleged anti-Ukrainian views.  They warned that if Kirill 
takes political "initiatives", then "the public has a right 
to respond."  End summary. 
 
2008 Visit Mired in Controversy 
------------------------------- 
 
2.  (U) Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) 
will conduct in July his first official visit to Ukraine 
since becoming head of the ROC in February 2009.  This 
follows the July 2008 visit of ROC Patriarch Aleksiy II, 
which was surrounded in controversy.  President Yushchenko 
had invited the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, 
without consulting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow 
Patriarchate, to also participate in the anniversary of the 
Baptism of the Kyivan Rus.  Observers believe that Yushchenko 
hoped the Ecumenical Patriarch would take steps to unite 
Ukraine's divided Orthodox community under his authority 
during the 2008 visit.  Yushchenko warmly welcomed the 
Ecumenical Patriarch and was seen as snubbing ROC Patriarch 
Aleksiy.  In response, Russia's MFA angrily complained about 
"disrespectful" treatment. 
 
Divided Orthodox Community 
-------------------------- 
 
3.  (SBU) Yushchenko has supported the creation of a united 
Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent from Moscow's 
influence.  Currently, Ukraine's Orthodox community is split 
between two major churches.  The Ukrainian Orthodox 
Church-Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP) is an autonomous branch 
of the ROC lead by Metropolitan Volodymyr.  The Moscow 
Patriarchate will host Patriarch Kirill during his upcoming 
visit.  The second largest Orthodox community is the 
Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kyiv Patriarchate (UOC-KP), 
established soon after Ukrainian independence under the 
leadership of Patriarch Filaret.   The Moscow Patriarchate 
considers the Kyiv Patriarchate schismatic. 
 
ROC Patriarch Kirill To Visit Holodomor Memorial 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
 
4.  (U) The Moscow Patriarchate announced that Patriarch 
Kirill would visit Orthodox monasteries in Kyiv, Donetsk 
Oblast, and Ternopol Oblast and the historic Chersonesos site 
in Crimea during his July 27-August 5 visit.  The Patriarch 
will also have a short meeting with President Yushchenko and 
then join him in wreath-laying ceremonies at monuments to the 
unknown soldier and victims of the Holodomor in Kyiv.  The 
Moscow Patriarchate's spokesman emphasized that this would be 
a pastoral, not a political visit. 
 
5.  (SBU) Archimandrite Kirill Hovorun, responsible for the 
Moscow Patriarchate's external relations, told Emboff that 
the church hoped to avoid what it saw as "political 
interference" during Patriarch Aleksiy's 2008 visit.  He 
expressed hope that the visit could help unite Ukrainian 
society during "difficult" times.  Hovorun emphasized that 
the church has a new "paradigm" and would not support 
political parties - an apparent reference the UOC-MP's 
support for Viktor Yanukovych during the 2004 presidential 
campaign.  Hovorun concluded that Kirill would make efforts 
to be respectful of Ukrainian sensitivities during his visit. 
 
 
Kyiv Patriarchate Says Kirill is Anti-Ukrainian 
--------------------------------------------- -- 
 
6.  (SBU) Kyiv Patriarchate spokesman Bishop Yevstrati told 
reporters if Patriarch Kirill's visit were strictly pastoral, 
the UOC-KP would respect his right as a church leader to 
visit his community.  However, Yevstrati noted Patriarch 
Kirill's "anti-Ukrainian positions" and said that he "can 
hardly expect a warm and hearty welcome in Ukraine." 
Yevstrati later told Emboff that Kirill wants to limit the 
UOC-MP's autonomy from the ROC and eventually integrate it 
into the Russian church.  Yevstrati objected to Kirill's 
recent statement that Kyiv is the southern capital of Russian 
 
Orthodoxy.  Yevstrati described limited contacts with the 
UOC-MP in recent years, a new development, and believes that 
UOC-MP Metropolitan Volodymyr supports greater autonomy for 
his church.  He reiterated that the UOC-KP does not oppose a 
pastoral visit, but if Kirill takes on political 
"initiatives", Yevstrati warned that the public "has a right 
to respond." 
 
Greek Catholic Church Calls for Understanding 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
7.  (U) Cardinal Lyubomyr Huzar, head of the Ukrainian Greek 
Catholic Church commented to the press that he supported 
Patriarch Kirill's planned visit ) as long as it was 
strictly pastoral.  He explain
ed that such visits by 
religious leaders are a normal practice.  Huzar's 
representative for external affairs, Father Roman Nebozhuk, 
told Emboff that his church hopes Ukraine will project a 
positive image during the visit and show that an independent 
Ukraine is not a threat to Russia. 
 
Government Representative: Not a State Visit 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
8.  (SBU) The Chairman of the State Committee for 
Nationalities and Religions, Yuri Reshitnikov, told Emboff 
that he viewed Kirill's visit as a church matter, and not a 
state visit.  He explained that his committee does not have 
responsibility for planning but is assisting with 
preparations. 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
9.  (SBU) Patriarch Kirill's decision to visit the Holodomor 
memorial is significant since the GOR has pointedly refused 
to do so. President Yushchenko has angered the Kremlin in his 
efforts to gain recognition of the 1932-33 famine as an act 
of genocide against the Ukrainian people.  By visiting this 
monument and emphasizing the pastoral nature of the visit, 
Kirill may deflect criticism that he is coming to promote 
Russian state interests. 
PETTIT

Wikileaks

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