World Council of Churches delegation visits Ukraine
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
A delegation of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has paid a visit to Ukraine as the Russian invasion, which has devastated several cities and caused a humanitarian crisis, enters its sixth month.
A WCC statement said that the delegation, led by the acting general secretary, Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca, visited the besieged country from 1-5 August, “to listen to the representatives of local churches, as well as state institutions working with religious issues, and to ensure the participation of Ukraine’s churches at the upcoming WCC assembly” taking place from 31 August – 8 September, in Karlsruhe, Germany.
In June, the WCC central committee issued a statement on the ongoing war, lamenting the Russian invasion of its neighbour.
“When one part of the body suffers, all parts suffer with it. We are in Christian solidarity with all those who suffer in Ukraine,” said Sauca, reiterating the 18 June WCC central committee statement.
Visit to Church leaders
During the visit, the WCC delegation met with the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations which represents Christian denominations in Ukraine, as well as Jewish and Muslim Communities. It also serves as a platform for dialogue and relations with the state.
On 3 August, with the aim of emphasizing the invitation to participate at the upcoming WCC assembly, the delegation met with the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Epiphaniy of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine; and Archbishop Evstratiy of Chernihiv and Nizhyn, deputy head of the External Church Relations Department of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
The following day, - 4 August – Sauca met with the Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
While on its way to Kyiv, the WCC delegation was welcomed by Metropolitan Meletii of Chernivtsi and Bukovyna, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The delegation included Rev. Prof. Dr. Ioan Sauca, accompanied by Rev. Dr. Odair Pedroso Mateus, deputy general secretary of the WCC and director of the Commission on Faith and Order, and Ivars Kupcis, WCC communication officer.
Meeting with state institutions
The 5-day visit provided the WCC delegation the opportunity to learn a lot about the ongoing war in Ukraine from meetings with various state institutions – including Oleksandr Tkachenko, minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine; Olena Bogdan, head of the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnic Affairs and Freedom of Conscience; and Oleksiy Dniprov, deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine.
In all the encounters, the WCC acting general secretary underlined the importance of the participation of Ukraine’s churches as the WCC assembly in Karlsruhe, which will be “an opportunity for people of Ukraine to address the global WCC fellowship, sharing and praying together for an end of the war and re-establishment of just peace in Ukraine.”