ROME (Reuters) —Ukrainian Catholic leaders said yesterday that the Vatican and the Kremlin were destroying their church, which is banned in the Soviet Union but supported by some two million faithful in the Western world.
«Vatican curial circles are Latinizing the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and Moscow policy-makers are Russifying it. Both practices spell the death of this church,» a statement issued by the Ukrainian Church leaders said.
They renewed demands that the Vatican recognize Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, who was allowed to leave the Soviet Union in 1963 after spending 18 years in prison, as the patriarch of the church.
The Vatican, which gave the cardinal a home here, consistently has refused to recognize him as the autonomous leader of the church to avoid further friction with the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies.
Soviet authorities banned the Ukrainian Catholic Church in 1946 by forcibly incorporating it into the Russian Orthodox Church.
The dispute with Rome, officially described as a matter of jurisdiction and not of doctrine, led the 83-year-old cardinal to walk out of a Papal Mass in the Sistine Chapel last week because he was not accorded the place of honor traditionally reserved for full patriarchs.
The English community of the Ukrainian Church has been torn by a bitter dispute over the question because its leader. Bishop Agostino Horniak, has come out in favor of accepting Rome’s jurisdiction.
A number of Eastern churches that fully accept the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church enjoy a degree of independence from Rome by having their own patriarchs.
The statement said the Vatican was trying to «fragment the church by subjecting its separate bishoprics to the practice of maintaining their individual ties with the Holy See individually rather than permitting them to maintain them through a synodal administration — as is the traditional procedure in Christian East.»