Ukrainian Greek Catholics 'betrayed' by pope-patriarch meeting
KYIV - Agence France-Presse
AFP photoPope Francis is under fire in Ukraine after his historic meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, with the head of the country's Greek Catholic Church saying believers felt "betrayed".
"Today, a lot of believers spoke to me and said they feel betrayed by Vatican," Major Archbishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk said in an interview published late Feb. 13.
The Ukrainian church recognises the pope and has been a major source of friction between Moscow and the Vatican.
Shevchuk took issue with a declaration by Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill when they met in Cuba on Feb. 12, particularly one concerning Ukraine, which invited "all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence".
"This text led to deep disappointment among many believers in our Church and other concerned Ukrainians," he said in the interview published on the Church's official website.
Shevchuk, whose Church supported the Maidan rallies that toppled Moscow-backed ex-president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014 and later Kyiv's campaign against pro-Russian separatists in the east, said the word "conflict" was "inappropriate" as it suggested a civil conflict "rather than a foreign aggression of a neighbouring state."
He charged that the Russian Patriarch "openly supports Russian aggression against Ukraine".
Kirill has denounced the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on various occasions for an "anti-Russian" stance in the conflict, which has killed over 9,000 people since it erupted in April 2014.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic, or Uniate, Church, is an eastern rite Catholic Church that was persecuted by Stalin but has enjoyed a revival after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
A survey last year found that about eight percent of Ukrainians are members of the church, mainly in the west.
About 70 percent of the population is Orthodox but they are split into followers of Ukrainian and Russian patriarchates, who are likewise bitterly at odds over the conflict.