The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said that Ukraine was “an integral part of European civilisation” during a visit to Brussels last week.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk spoke to MEPs at the European Parliament on 8 November, as the European Commission made its recommendation that the EU should open membership negotiations with Ukraine.
He said that his visit was “to reaffirm this aspiration in the context of the neo-colonial war that Russia is waging against Ukraine. Ukraine is waiting for an invitation to join the EU.”
The negotiations would be “a significant aid in confronting Russian aggression”, he said, and expressed gratitude for Europe’s reception of Ukrainian refugees. He said the Ukrainian Catholic Church was “doing everything we can to ensure their rights and dignity are properly protected”.
Archbishop Shevchuk also described the role of churches in Ukraine. “The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations stands guard over the preservation of the principles of religious freedom,” he said, “but at the same time supports the steps of the Ukrainian state towards liberation and protection of the religious environment from its instrumentalization by Russia as an aggressor country.”
The archbishop also met officials from the European Council of Churches, warning that the “Russkiy mir” ideology of the Russian Orthodox Church threatens other denominations.
“If today Orthodox Christians are killing other Orthodox Christians, if one Church generates a murderous ideology and brings death in the name of protecting Christian values, Christianity in the modern secularised world cannot gain people’s trust.”
In an address to the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (Comece) on 9 November, he urged bishops to support “international solidarity” and prevent Ukraine from becoming a “forgotten war”.
The next day Comece released a statement calling for “a renewed vision of justice and peace” and urging EU leaders to build “a Europe that utilises its full potential to resolve conflicts and light lamps of hope, acting as a united, credible and unifying force, upholding democratic principles and the rule of law both within and beyond its borders”.