Archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

 

Academic conference: “The Ukrainian cooperative movement”

“Social policy in Ukraine from the churche's point of view”

June, 13

 

Most respected participants of today’s gathering!

Please accept my sincere salutations to all of you who are gathered and the Christian greeting:

Glory to Jesus Christ!

 

My task was to illuminate the social state of affairs in Ukraine from the point of view of the Christian Churches. And I believe that the fact of the organization of the Ecumenical Social Week is an extraordinarily important event in the life of our society. The importance of this event, first and foremost, lies in the fact that the reason, or, more accurately, the call or stimulus for our work is always the words of our Savior to the Heavenly Father: “So that all may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in You.” (John 17:21) This commandment of Our Lord Jesus Christ is for all Christians simultaneously an impulse and the end point of our striving. The unity of Christians and the unity of people in the fight against various sorts of misfortunes and unhappiness has a key meaning. Unity is more than being near each other or together, because unified people become a healthy community, which can bring much good.

Besides the themes that are already customary for ecumenical gatherings, especially the discussion of theological differences in the teachings of different church communities, it is important to examine questions that may not concern ecumenism at first glance, but that, after a closer look, demonstrate their importance and the necessity of examining them. Of course, it is very important to reconcile theological questions, which have, over the course of the long centuries of controversy, taken on much negative and occasionally artificially-created baggage. However, in the everyday calling of the Christian Churches – that is, the preaching of the Good News – a question of a pastoral character arises, namely: To remain further in a state of division from one another, or to try to find steps of reconciliation and openness to one another?

Here we have come to the question of the search for steps towards understanding, both Christian and societal. And again we ask ourselves: Is it possible to move immediately from opposition to unity? As we see from experience, and especially the Ukrainian experience, to make this definitive step is very difficult. We must learn to be responsible for our words and deeds. We must admit that one of the things that must be worked on along the path to unity is a refusal of negative thinking. It is true that to achieve this state of affairs we must cross through the desert of cleansing and maturation. However, this period is important, necessary, and responsible. Its importance lies in the fact that during this time a new way of thinking is formed. Accordingly, the importance of this meeting lies in the fact that among us are representatives of church communities, civil organizations, and state authorities; in other words, selected individuals who are called to offer society steps of reconciliation and unification, which are very needed both for the world and for our country.

Another important fact is that, continuing the tradition of ecumenical social weeks, we have the opportunity, also in Ukraine, to examine the sore subjects which are common to all of society, independent of religious or party membership. The organizers of this First Ecumenical Social Week suggested that we pay particular attention to the work of social organizations that work with such social groups as handicapped individuals, the homeless, addicts, and elderly individuals. These are people who demand particular attention and care from society. For my part, I would like to say that our Ukrainian society, both the Churches and civil organizations and state authorities, must pay particular attention to another social problem that is brewing throughout our entire country, namely that we live in a time when our state as a whole and each individual separately is striving for economic affirmation and growth, and it is good that there is a desire to work; however, in the frantic pace of life we sometimes forget to set priorities. We all know that it is a widespread phenomenon in our country for people to leave their families and look for ways to make money in other parts of the world. Accordingly, a large number of children grow up without a father or mother, and sometimes without either. The task of raising these children is passed along to other relatives, or very often to the street. The question arises: Is our society raising spiritually- and morally-healthy people? Or is it possible that we, through our behavior, are preparing candidates for the above-mentioned groups of people? We see that there is enough work here for everyone, and charitable work that is blessed by God is able to unify society.

Having discussed the social problems and our responsibility for solving them, it is important to discuss the motives of our work in this area. And thus, now, we are celebrating a certain anniversary of the baptism of Kyivan Rus (1020 years). It is an event that gives an opportunity and inspires us to spread the Gospel News on our lands. The facts of the spiritual, moral, and societal growth of our lands during and after such events are well-known. But did the light of Christ come just one time and now this is simply a historical event? We understand that this is not the case. Christianity has brought us a new understanding of the world, which must be developed and embodied in our time as well. The Christian understanding of the world grows out of thankfulness to God for the gift of life in this world and in the light of God, and this includes the ability to accept, preserve, develop, and give to others the spiritual good we have attained. It is from this understanding that people’s readiness to be open to the world and worldly affairs is born. Accordingly, it is impossible to look at the Christian attitude towards worldly affairs individually, because in all aspects of their calling Christians are members of Christ’s Church, which is also called by God to be responsible for caring for those who need care and help. “Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18) These words do not indicate an abstract or future love, but an active love, sympathetic to human needs and unhappiness in the here and now. Jesus Christ didn’t walk past when he saw human woes, but healed the sick, made the lepers healthy (see Luke 17:14), gave bread to the hungry (see Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16)…Everyone must take this on, because no one has a guarantee that he himself will not end up tomorrow in dire need of the merciful hand of a neighbor. The understanding of one’s mission in the world means a measure of the Christian’s understanding of his responsibility for life in the world and human activity in it. Living already more than 1000 years after the embodiment of the words of Christ in our culture, we have the opportunity to examine to what extent we have developed this gift. And let us be certain that our attitude towards people that need our attention and help demonstrates our moral and spiritual maturity or lack thereof. Insofar as Christianity is the basis for both Ukrainian and European-wide culture, it teaches that people’s calling is to create community, and no activism in the world can lose this fundamental perspective. This means that all the moral foundations that must shape life in the human community also concern human activism in the material world. Both communal life and activism in the world must rely on love and justice and be rooted in a spirit of truth and freedom. Every person is created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:27). Accordingly, the human being, looking at his dignity, becomes the center of communal life. Thus a fundamental criterion to judge society by is respect for every person. A person cannot be looked at as the means or an object of state, societal, or economic processes. However, this accent on the individual does not mean an individualistic conception of human life, because humans are called to community, to a mutually responsible attitude towards other members of the community, to their Creator. It is in this way that a free human being can truly grow and develop.

The social teaching of the Church is not a recipe book for all of life’s events; rather, it indicates a chain of the most significant teachings that must be followed. The teaching and life of the Savior underscores the distinctive approach for every level of civilization, thus respecting its deepest nature.

And when we look at the activity in our archdiocese as well as in the Church, on the one hand we can say that there is quite a bit being done to help those in need; on the other hand, there is still much to do in our work and help for our neighbors. Of course there are organizations and people connected with the Church who are exceptionally dedicated to this work. For example, we could mention the organization Faith and Light or the help organized by priests to those in need, the elderly, and the downcast that exist in several of our churches. There young people voluntarily provide such services, and at the same time the great gift of sympathy for their neighbors who are in need is cultivated…As far as joint projects with other Churches, there are very few of them and we probably need much work and maturation in this area. Our society, in my opinion, still needs to make progress in this area, to rethink and leave behind our narrow-minded views, so as to concentrate on helping our neighbors, regardless of their faith, race, or gender. Here I am not excluding individuals blessed by God, who are not always ready to sacrifice themselves in the name of their neighbors. Our society, which was for a long time wounded by atheistic propaganda, has still not healed all these wounds and thus as a result its sickliness will remain for a period of time…

In conclusion, I sincerely thank the organizers of the Ecumenical Social Week for their efforts in preparing this event. I express my thanks to all of you participants who reacted gladly to your invitation and gathered in the city of Lviv in order to share your experience and knowledge. Thus, before our society there are many unsolved social problems, but let us remember that, despite all difficulties, with God’s help, our sincere and honest work will without fail bring good results. May God bless all of us in this and help us courageously overcome the difficulties and challenges of today!