An Appeal by Patriarch Sviatoslav to the UGCC faithful and all people of good will on the occasion of the “Unification Day of Ukraine”
January 19, 2014
To the Most Reverend Metropolitans and God-Loving Bishops,
To the Honourable and Venerable Priests and Deacons,
To the Venerable Monks and Nuns,
To the Dear Faithful in Christ—Brothers and sisters!
The commemoration of Ukraine’s sobornist’ is a celebration of the everlasting desire—of a nation torn apart by various empires—for a unity that would be realized and protected within a sovereign Ukrainian state.
The sobornist’ of the state reflects the sobornist’ of the soul of the Ukrainian people. It is a cultural, civil and spiritual unity of the heirs of the ancient state of Kyivan-Rus’. This unity, transfigured and ratified 1025 years ago at the baptism of Prince Vladimir, gave spiritual birth to the distinct European identity of the Ukrainian people.
This identity was expressed in the spiritual triumph of the first martyrs of Kyivan-Rus’, Boris and Hlib, who—with their own lives—bore witness to the Christian renunciation of violence, as committed by their own brother, and thus proclaimed a sacred “no” to violence as a means of nation-building.
The European identity of our people was made manifest by our respect for other nations, religions and cultures, which gathered within the crossroads of ancient Kyiv—the Mother of the cities of Rus’. As the “city of Christ’s peace,” Kyiv is the spiritual centre of this ancient nation, within which—for centuries—different nationalities have peacefully and harmoniously coexisted.
The sobornist’ of the modern, sovereign Ukrainian state is made manifest in its “catholicity,” that is to say, in its ability to honor the dignity of every person living within our country. We pray that today’s commemoration of our sobornist’ will pave the road to unity, dialogue and understanding between the government and the people, and between the various political forces and civil organizations.
The sobornist’ of religious life in Ukraine is a confession of the one God and the moral law given by Him. Only His law can be the “universal” foundation for civil law. Having created man as a free person in His own image and likeness, the Creator has granted him inalienable and universal rights and freedoms that cannot be stripped away from him or denied him. Civil law should respect and serve these universal rights and freedoms.
This God-granted sobornist’ of our nation should elevate us beyond what today divides our society. May the celebration of our sobornist’ help us renew the everlasting quest for the unity of Ukraine most especially in the present manifestation of this single principle of our national life, which contains the cultural, civil and spiritual unity of Ukrainians as a European nation.
This year’s commemoration of Ukraine’s sobornist’ is overshadowed by tensions and escalating violence in our nation’s capital, Kyiv. We are watching with concern how the long-peaceful protests—ignored by the authorities—have poured out into a wave of violence and bloodshed.
For the preservation of a united Ukraine, for the sake of its future, I call upon the authorities to heed the demands of its people, to stop talking to them through the language of force and to stop the implementation of repressive mechanisms.
I appeal to all civil and political leaders to renounce violence and return to the path of peaceful resistance. Do not let emotions, even if they be justified, overshadow our clear thinking and deprive us of the opportunity to enter into dialogue.
I appeal to our episcopate and clergy to be vigilant especially over the souls of the flock entrusted to you. Speak to the hearts and minds of our faithful the gospel of Christ’s Peace! The Lord told us: “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give to you: not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (Jn 14:27). Today St. Paul the Apostle reminds us of this, saying: “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Tim 4:2).
On this day and in this historical moment, may there resound—in all of our churches, religious communities and Christian families—a prayer for peace and God’s blessing upon our nation. May the commemoration of Ukraine’s sobornist’ become a holy day of “unified” prayer for Ukraine!
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom 15:13).
May the blessing of the Lord be upon you!
Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ
20 January 2014, on the Synaxis of St John the Baptist
I request that all pastors on the “Unification Day of Ukraine,” 22 January 2014, celebrate a Divine Liturgy for the Ukrainian people and their sovereign state, and to publically read this appeal.
Unification Day of Ukraine (Свято Соборності України)—was a state holiday, celebrated annually on January 22, commemorating the proclamation of the re-unification of the Ukrainian People’s Republic and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic, which took place in 1919. It was officially celebrated in Ukraine from 1999. On 30 December 2011, however, by the decree of the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, Unification Day of Ukraine was officially canceled and instead December 30 was proclaimed “Day of Reunion of Ukraine and Liberty.”
Sobornist’ is a rich and multivalent term, expressing the common bonds—political, cultural and spiritual—that unite a people.