Patriarch of Jerusalem cancels meeting with Ukrainian President in Israel

The patriarch had to focus the attention of the head of Ukraine, Poroshenko, on stopping the process of seizing churches in Ukraine.

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January 25, 2019 19:41
4 minute read.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. (photo credit: MYKOLA LAZARENKO/UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

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The Patriarch of Jerusalem canceled a meeting with President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko who had been on a trip to Israel. According to the official version, Theophilos III was hospitalized with a minor illness. According to information from unnamed sources in the church circles of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, the head of the Jerusalem church did not want to meet with the Ukrainian leader after a scandal with a letter that Theophilus III sent to Poroshenko in December 2018.

Recall that in his appeal signed by the Secretary of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, a member of the Synod, Archbishop of Constantina Aristarchos, with the blessing of Theophilos III, he expressed his opinion “about the need to end the political persecution of the 4th President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych and to involve him in active participation in the process of bringing peace to Donbass.  Because a broad dialogue is needed to achieve national reconciliation in Ukraine, with the involvement of people from this region in the peace process, President Yanukovych could become such a representative”.

After the appearance of this letter in the media, a serious diplomatic scandal broke out. Ukraine’s Ambassador to Israel, Hennadii Nadolenko, in a comment to Ukrainian News, stated that, according to his information, this letter had been allegedly recalled by the Israeli side, and that information about sending it to Poroshenko is fake.

"The Jerusalem Patriarch did not write anything. But then it (the letter) was recalled, and it did not go anywhere. This is all pure fake ... No one has ever addressed anyone," the ambassador said.

He also stated that the Patriarch of Jerusalem did not know about the existence of this letter.

Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina refuted the words of the Ambassador of Ukraine to Israel. He stated that no one had recalled the letter and it was sent to the addressee.

"Yes, there is such a letter. It is true ... We were not asked to recall the letter," he said and provided the Ukrainian media with a copy of this letter, adding that this document was written with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Theophilos III, who was extremely interested in establishing peace in Ukraine.

Our sources in church circles report that, apart from the disappointment that the Patriarch’s sincere position on peace in Ukraine was ignored, the main reason for canceling the meeting was the Patriarch’s reluctance to “consecrate” the controversial topic of creating the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. It is no secret that Poroshenko’s open attempts to use the church theme for his election campaign cause a strong allergy among many church leaders in Ukraine and abroad. The utterly frank pressure on the Ukrainian church of the Moscow Patriarchate, the adoption of ambiguous church laws, creating tools for taking over parishes and seizures of church property have nothing in common with church canons or with principles of democracy.

As it became known to our publication, Theophilos was going to call on Poroshenko to leave church issues to priests and ordinary people, and to stop state intervention in such a sensitive issue. Any awkward movement in this matter can lead to irreparable consequences. Belief in the Lord is a subtle matter and it is not measured by geographic, political, economic measures. People should be given an opportunity to offer their prayers to the Lord without obstacles and violence.

The patriarch had to focus the attention of the head of Ukraine, Poroshenko, on stopping the process of seizing churches in Ukraine.

The words of Theophilos III were conveyed to President Poroshenko by the Archbishop of Constantina Aristarchoalso s, who conducted a tour of the Holy Sepulcher for the President of Ukraine. By the way, not so long ago, the ambassador of Ukraine to Israel, Gennady Nadolenko, called Aristarkhos “only a secretary” and, in the end, it was the Synod member Aristarchos who, in the absence of Theophilus III, accompanied P. Poroshenko on the shrines of Jerusalem.

“No power can resist the power of God. Let the people decide which temple to go to, and not the state and the “thugs” point the way to the Lord, ”noted Aristarchos.

Referring to the December letter of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, the Synod member Aristarchos again focused the attention of the head of Ukraine on stopping political persecution of opponents and on the need to find the strength to direct all efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the military conflict in Donbas. The words of Theophilos III's were addressed to President Poroshenko in a letter about “forgiveness and reconciliation” with the former President of Ukraine V. Yanukovych, along with the reiteration of the need to use every opportunity to resolve the protracted military conflict in Ukraine.

In his turn, Poroshenko also transmitted a number of messages to Theophilos III through the Archbishop of Constantina Aristarchos, but their essence is still unknown.

According to sources in the Jerusalem Patriarchate, Petro Poroshenko at a meeting with Theophilus III wanted to enlist his support in the creation of the Most Holy Church of Ukraine in Ukraine. However, Theophilos III, who had previously expressed his protest against the creation of autocephaly in Ukraine, did not want to discuss this issue with the President of Ukraine.

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