GREEK PATRIARCH Theofilos III R 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
There is a strong possibility that Greek Patriarch Theophilos III will try to
reconcile leaders and members of the Ukrainian Church that have been split for
years. At issue is the jurisdiction of the Moscow patriarchate over the
A schism exists between those who are loyal to the
patriarchate in Kiev and those who continue to put their trust in the
patriarchate in Moscow.
During his state visit to Jerusalem last week to
mark the 20th year of both Ukrainian independence and Ukraine’s diplomatic ties
with Israel, President Viktor Yanukovych called on Theophilos III to
Theophilos, who attended the state dinner President Shimon
Peres hosted in Yanukovych’s honor Thursday night, told The Jerusalem Post
was inclined to accede to the request.
When asked whether he would then
turn his attention to reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians,
Theophilos replied that religious leaders are already engaged in this effort,
and have been for several years.
During the second Bush administration,
he said, a request was made by the Americans to the Council of Religious
Institutions of the Holy Land to use its combined influence toward ending the
conflict and bringing about peace.
Institutions represented on the
council include the Chief Rabbinate, the heads of local churches, and both the
Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Islamic Wakf and its Islamic Shari’a
Ten years ago, said Theophilos, several of the representatives
barely spoke to each other. Now they work together in harmony.
convinced, he said, peace, when it comes, will not be the work of politicians,
but of religious leaders, because in the final analysis, the real quarrel is
about holy sites – a dispute that can be settled more by religious leaders than
At the dinner for Yanukovych, Peres reiterated Israel’s
acceptance of a two-state solution to the conflict and emphasized yet again that
the only way to achieve this was through direct negotiations between the two
Peres praised the Ukrainian administration for its
Since Ukraine achieved independence in 1990, he said, the
country has actively worked against any manifestations of anti- Semitism. Not
only that, it also permits its Jews freedom of worship and cultural expression,
just as it treats people of other faiths. This is something Israel greatly
appreciates, said Peres, adding that Ukraine is trying to repair the evils of
the Soviet regime. This includes the establishment of a monument at Babi Yar to
commemorate the murder of tens of thousands of Jews during World War II. A
revolutionary change has taken place in Ukraine in a relatively short period of
time, said Peres.
At the outset of his address Peres mentioned a number
of famous Jews of Ukrainian background. Continuing on this theme, Yanukovych
noted that Ukraine had once boasted one of the largest Jewish communities in the
world, and many of Ukraine’s Jews had been among the pioneers and leaders of the
nascent State of Israel.