The ability to negotiate with each other and make concessions in order to achieve a common goal seems to be good human virtues. But when it comes to backroom agreements for the sake of personal gain, while neglecting the interests of those who trust you and betraying your own principles - it couldn’t not be really called a virtue. These are approximately the impressions left by the analysis of the results of the meeting of the Pope Francis and the Patriarch Kirill of Moscow in Havana.
Generally, several previous Popes have made great efforts to establish a dialogue with the Russian Orthodoxy, but all of them failed because of the Moscow’s position. Now the Russian Patriarchate has rushed to negotiation room with the Pope, who did not really expected such a scenario. The fact that, in the opinion of the overwhelming majority of analysts, Francis is quite weak in diplomacy. Now he blindly trusts his advisers on Foreign Relations and this has repeatedly put him in an awkward position. But in the course of history the Russian Orthodox Church has been providing support to Moscow authorities, so the dedication to believers’ souls saving is always relegated to the second place, the protection of state interests being a priority number one.
Tropical climate, Cuban rum and world-famous cigars, apparently contribute to the art of compromise beyond measure. And the interests of the Russian state are wide-spread: the annexation of the Crimea and the on-going war in the eastern part of Ukraine, the war in Syria and related to it sanctions ... So the Russian Orthodox Church is pretty busy and the collaboration with the Vatican will develop along these directions.
At this stage, the key challenge for Moscow in Europe is easing the sanctions’ pressure, and the largest religious structure’s influence can really help to turn the situation to the better. It is also possible to use the moral authority of Catholicism for a split based on the struggle for "traditional values."
When it comes to the Syrian conflict, Russia's desire to "whiten" itself demonstrate itself through the approval of Christians’ Protection from the Islamic threat. For a long time Russia positions itself as the "fighter" against terrorism and the active defender of Christianity. The civilized world accepts such claims with skepticism; however, this assessment may falter if the official Vatican recognizes the need for the Russian military presence in order to protect the Syrian believers from genocide on the part of the Islamic State’s militants.
It is known that at the level of the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Head of the Catholic Church in Syria, Ignatius Joseph III, cooperation has already been regulated, leading to aggressive statements of the Catholic representative about the position of the United States and Europe. Moreover, now the Holy Thrown receives the information on the Middle East conflict by the channels strongly affiliated with the Russian sources. Thus, the political blindness of the Vatican could lead to the fact that Russian military crimes will "turn" to be the cause of saving the world.
One of the main areas where the Russian Orthodox Church seeks to use the Catholic Church is an extension of its influence in Ukraine and moral victory over their opponents - in the first place, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The review the comments on this topic pushes to some disappointing conclusions. For the sake of cooperation with Russian Orthodoxy, Francis is ready to sacrifice his flock in Ukraine. Now the Vatican’s priority policy areas are those of Latin America, Africa, Western Europe, so Vatican recognizes the religious hegemony on the territory of Ukraine as belonging to the Russian Orthodoxy. The Russian Orthodox Church, in its turn, has strengthened the information attack on the Ukrainian Greek Catholics. After all, it is understandable, because the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate is the mouthpiece of Moscow propaganda. The robes of priests are connected to Federal Bureau on Security straps. The Orthodox churches in eastern Ukraine are being used for weapons storage facilities for terrorists, while the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church nowadays represents one of the consolidating forces of the Ukrainian society.
Traditionally, Moscow’s propaganda is openly cynical in this matter. Take, for example, the justification by the speakers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate of the liquidation of the Uniate Church in 1946 or the condemnation of the activities of Metropolitan Sheptytsky.
The reluctance of the Holy Thrown to irritate Moscow Patriarchate and the access to the dominant role of the pro-Moscow supporters in Vatican (for example, a well-known Russophile Cardinal Koch) has led to a distorted view of Ukrainian realities.
Thus, in his appeals the Pope interprets Russian-Ukrainian war only as a civil conflict. When it comes to religious oppression in Ukraine, they speak only about the conflicts with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Moscow Patriarchate in the Western part of Ukraine. Not a word, for example, is said about the persecution - including physical destruction – of the Protestants or the Ukrainian Orthodox Church priests’ from Kiev Patriarchate in the Russian-Ukrainian war zone or about the powerful pressure on the Muslim communities of the Crimean Tatars in Crimea.
To an outside observer it is clear that such an "ostrich" policy is not befitting to the "vicar of God on earth." At the time when the Russian aggressor has thrown down the challenge to the civilized world, even to the principles of mutual understanding and humanity, entering into a compromise with a conscience is not only criminal but also openly sinful for the leader of the largest Christian denomination on the Earth. The Catholic Church has already had to apologize for its "blindness" during the Second World War. But here and now we are not speaking about the "ignorance" but about the areas of possible cooperation! It will be very difficult to apologize for such things ...Jacob Prystupa, especially for "Vector News"
Translated by Maria Kryzhanovska