Ukrainian church leaders have met with Pope Francis and stressed their allegiance to Rome, amid tensions about the position of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) in the dialogue between the Vatican and Moscow, the Catholic News website reports today (March 7, 2016).
"We came to reaffirm our communion with the Holy Father and to ask for his help for the suffering people of Ukraine during the Jubilee Year of Mercy," said the head of the UGCC, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, after the meeting in the Vatican.
Ukrainian Greek Catholics are in full unity with Rome and have been a major source of friction between Moscow and the Vatican. The Russian Orthodox Church leaders have long insisted the activity of the Ukrainian Catholics of Eastern Rite amounted to "proselytism" ( that is, using pressure to convert a multitude of Orthodox Christians to Catholic Christians) and was an obstacle to Moscow-Vatican dialogue. The UGCC denies this Russian accusation.
Archbishop Shevchuk recently criticized parts of the declaration between Pope Francis and Moscow Orthodox Patriarch Kirill during their historic meeting in Cuba on February 12, 2016. He said that "this text led to deep disappointment among many Ukrainians" but later clarified that the Pope-Patriarch meeting in Havana was "of historical importance" despite some concern on his side.