J'lem’s Greek patriarch asked to resolve split in church.

Theophilos III inclined to accept request by Ukrainian president.

December 5, 2011 06:33
2 minute read.

GREEK PATRIARCH Theofilos III R 311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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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 Ukrainian churches.

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.

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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 intervene.

Theophilos, who attended the state dinner President Shimon Peres hosted in Yanukovych’s honor Thursday night, told The Jerusalem Post he 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 Courts.

Ten years ago, said Theophilos, several of the representatives barely spoke to each other. Now they work together in harmony.

He was 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 by politicians.

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 parties.

Peres praised the Ukrainian administration for its policies.

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.

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