A clergyman holds a religious picture during a rally by pro-European Union protesters in Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan 21.

CNS PHOTO | GLEB GARANICH, REUTERS

A clergyman holds a religious picture during a rally by pro-European Union protesters in Kyiv, Ukraine, Jan 21.

February 3, 2014
FR. JEFFREY STEPHANIUK
SPECIAL TO THE WCR

Foreign governments are experiencing varying degrees of inertia at developments in Ukraine on Jan. 20, referred to by Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk as the St. John the Baptist Day violence.

"The conflict still can be walked back from the precipice through quick negotiations, and a stand-down by the Yanukovych camp," writes Adrian Karatnycky on the Atlantic Council website.

"But Yanukovych and the hardliners who now shape his policy need to hear from Western leaders, including President Obama, directly and in no uncertain terms."

Christians have more of a moral freedom to call world attention to and resist the transformation of a democracy into a dictatorship at a time when politicians might be afraid of meddling in the internal affairs of a sovereign country.

Speaking about Catholicism, French philosopher Jacques Maritain once stated the "pope is not a foreign sovereign; he is the visible head of the mystical body, essentially supra-temporal, supra-political, supra-national, supra-cultural, of which Christ is the invisible head."

Christians are citizens of the world and have something to say about Ukraine.

From Rome on Sunday, January 26 Pope Francis voiced his prayer for dialogue between government representatives and citizens in Ukraine, culminating a theme that has been consistently invoked by Ukrainian hierarchs.

"The only solution to the current entanglement in Ukraine is the possibility of dialogue, the common search for what really is the truth," said Cardinal Lubomyr Husar on Jan. 23. "Without such a desire from both sides, there will be no way to resolve these difficulties; . . . there will be more bloodshed."

YEARNINGS FOR BLOOD

In his plea for "dialogue and more dialogue," Husar has expressed what others have discovered through the course of journalistic investigations, namely that certain initiators of the recent violence do not really represent the will of the protestors.

"I am not sure, but perhaps someone wants this, maybe for them this is a solution, someone desires bloodshed. If so, there are no common grounds for talks and no consolation for our people.

"If the bodies of beaten and killed individuals cannot stir a change of heart, all that can be expected are for more to perish."

In an interview with Vatican Radio, also on Jan. 23, Bishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saint Wladimir-Le-Grand de Paris explained his convictions about the need for dialogue:

First, the government and the president should listen to the people; second, there should be no violence; third, the country should not be polarized, and no manipulation should be developed to divide the population and pit one group against another; and fourth, dialogue is the only method that can bring Ukraine out of this political crisis.

"It's not an easy method, it's arduous, but it's better than all others, especially better than the violence we've been seeing in recent days.

"Without dialogue, and probably without international moderation, the situation in Ukraine can get much worse. Having spent nine days in Kyiv in mid-December, I was profoundly moved by the spirit, by the prayer in the central square in Kyiv."

REGULAR PRAYER

"Prayer was a regular phenomenon: the day begins with prayer – ecumenical prayer – it's punctuated by prayer, and in the night there is prayer at every hour."

Patriarch Sviatoslav has appealed for an end to the escalation of violence and bloodshed, fearing for the type of future that is being created.

"It is never possible to build an independent country" through the use of force by "brother against brother," the patriarch said.

REASON OVER EMOTION

He appealed to those gathered at Kyiv's Maidan, which is now like a re-gathering and rest area away from the places of protest and clashes, to restrain themselves to "peaceful expressions of protest" and not to succumb to "emotion over reason: fear and aggression can never be trustworthy advisors on how to move forward."

To the country's judicial system he made the appeal that "justice without truth is impossible" and that their good judicial name was at stake.

Finally, to bishops and spiritual leaders, Patriarch Sviatoslav reiterated the role of the soul within a person and within a nation: "continually call everyone to prayer and a spiritual word of peace."

(Fr. Jeffrey Stephaniuk serves in the Wynyard Pastoral District of the Saskatoon Eparchy.)