On Thursday, October 3, an open panel discussion on the “Causes and Consequences of Populism” moderated by political analyst Taras Semeniuk was held at the Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytskyi Center. Everyone was welcome to join the discussion (and ask questions to the speakers).

In the discussion participated:

- Fr. Pavlo Khud, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Ukrainian Catholic University.

-         Pavlo Smytsniuk, Doctor of Philosophy, Director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies at the Ukrainian Catholic University.

-         Roman Solovii, Ukrainian historian, theologian, Doctor of Philosophy, Director of the Eastern European Institute of Theology.

-         Taras Baziuk, editor of the political section at the radio “UA: Ukrainian Radio Lviv”.

“Now we have the phenomenon of "sacralization of power": when a political leader is positioned as a "messiah" and given 'messianic' qualities. Like, he is the only one who can lead us from "darkness" to "light."

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We are joining this leader because we are acquiring identity of a "messianic" (saving) community: we are on the side of "light" against such a terrible "darkness." That is why it is important for us as Christians not to sacralize power, in particular - its leaders. It must be understood that any power by its nature is sinful, as is our entire society and human civilization. Therefore, the authorities often use religious imagery and promises, such as the "end of the poverty era." We understand that in one day such an era will not come to an end. It is a religious promise of the pseudo-kingdom of God,” – noted Roman Solovii, Ukrainian historian, theologian, Ph.D., Director of the Eastern European Institute of Theology.

Later he added: “All populist movements use religious slogans and instrumentalize religion. They take it out of spiritual and religious content and use it as political technology, as a marker of identity, through which they reach out to the masses. Therefore, as Christians, we must resist the instrumentalization and use of religion, churches, and Christian communities to achieve completely non-Christian goals. Unfortunately, in Ukrainian society, we see Christian communities and leaders allowing themselves to be used. Therefore, if we talk about the responsibility of society as a whole or at least the responsibility of Christian communities, we should not sacralize power and must not allow ourselves to be used for political purposes.

All these religious slogans and appeals to traditional values do not really mean anything to the politicians who appeal to them because it is a means to achieve their political goals.”

In addition, during the discussion, participants shared their views on what populism is: are populism and politics synonymous, a global trend, or a tribute to the historical past; can populists be effective leaders; can we make a responsible politician out of

the populist and vice versa; are we all populists because we are constantly looking for simple solutions; are education and civic activity the cure for populism; how religious communities can respond to populism in the context of the separation of the Church and the state – to these and many other questions speakers of the event were trying to find solutions.

According to the common view of the participants of discussion, populism is not a one-way movement, but above all a two-way communication. There is a politician who promises something; there are people, who (without analyzing) believe and perceive it as a truth, and give the mandate to implement this idea. Later, such a politician "forgets" about his promises and arranges an order that benefits him. In addition, there is a constant need in society to replace "old" politicians with "new" ones, especially before the elections. Because, so to say "old" new faces quickly discredited themselves. However, how long will this trend be actual for new politicians in the current system? The question is open. The speakers of the event believe that it is not possible to completely overcome populism, as a society will still "somehow fall into this temptation."

That is why each of us should be able to take responsibility first and foremost for ourselves and our actions and develop critical thinking.