About a hundred distinguished guests accepted His Holiness’s invitations, including clerics, politicians, states people, and artists... Guests who came to the Christmas reception held by Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) – Kyiv Patriarchate included Yurii Shcherbak, Hanna Herman, Arsenii Yatseniuk, Yevhenia Tymoshenko, MPs Andrii Kozhemiakin and Oleksandr Chornovolenko... Ambassador of Finland to Ukraine Arja Makkonen and German ambassador Christof Weil paid their respects to His Holiness as well.
His Holiness’s greetings and blessings for 2014 had the audience rising up in standing applause thrice as they admired his courage and political candor: “...Meaning of Christmas is that God does not just exist in heaven, but takes care of all the people and every person in particular. That was why He blessed His Son to go and rescue us from sin and death. Being immeasurable, God became a feeble infant in order to redeem us sinners. Can we carry burden of our sins on our own, without God’s help? No, we cannot. And since we cannot, God came to our help. He redeemed human nature from sin and from death. Did He, really? Or is Church just preaching and promoting a lie? No, it is not so. Indeed, Christ has conquered death, not only in His personal nature, but also in ours. Church and humanity have had many saints and apostles and martyrs and venerable people, and generally righteous people. They are signs of our victory. What with victory over death? It will come, too, but we need to believe in it.
“God’s truth is acting, and Christians should live by that truth. But, unfortunately, Christians do not live by the truth, and Ukraine serves as an example here... Youth, students were peacefully protesting. What were they protesting against? Injustice, which has been defeated by Christ. Where that injustice was? It was in preparing the Ukrainian people for a year to become an associate member of the European Union, and then backtracking in the last moment, on the eve of the signing. So, young people, being the most sensitive group, expressed their anger at this decision. The authorities went on to beat them up, and had the whole society, all the people rise up against them...
“We should not forget now about our chief objective of joining the EU. Why do we want to join it? Why do we not want to join the Customs Union or Eurasian bloc? Because we want to join a better, more perfect project rather than a backward one, democracy rather than tyranny, modern civilization and new technologies rather than backward world...
“But we know that not all is well in Europe, too. Therefore, we reject their failures and try to emulate their successes.
“This protest in Independence Square is longest by far in our history. For more than a month, people have been braving cold, rain or snow, by day and by night. What does this mean? People stand there peacefully as Christians should. And what do they want? They want Europe, they want to improve their lives.
“Now we face the question, will we win this fight or not? Some lose heart and exhibit weakening spirit. Such a person has already been defeated inside. They are no fighter and no defender anymore. Therefore, we need to stand firm to the very end, until victory, until Ukraine joins the EU. Whether we will join it or not, I and the entire Ukrainian people are convinced that we were, are and will be in Europe. Therefore, we need to have Christ-like patience to overcome sin...”
The audience exploded with standing applause thrice.
Both supporters and opponents call His Holiness an unbreakable patriarch. In the late 1980s, he lobbied head of the Russian Orthodox Church Alexy II to achieve administrative autonomy for the UOC. He went on to raise the issue of autocephaly. It was too much for higher-ups, who held the Kharkiv Council in 1992 which elected Volodymyr (Sabodan) as Metropolitan of Kyiv. However, His Holiness the Lord Patriarch has continued to stand his ground ever since. According to religious affairs student Andrii Yurash, it was Patriarch Filaret’s stance that prevented the idea of an autocephalous church in Ukraine from marginalization.
Welcoming the patriarch, The Day, noting the Church’s work for Ukraine in recent months, including deeds of St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery’s monks, and Filaret’s personal efforts to create a united Ukrainian Church, presented to him the Photo Contest 2013 participant Borys Korpusenko’s work Like Brothers as a sign of our appreciation. “This photo found great support among visitors to our photo exhibition. Although its subjects (it pictures Sabodan and Filaret) have always had troubled relations, there still have been many important steps toward reconciliation. The photo’s meaning is multilayered. Public support for it proves that people have great hope for a united Church in Ukraine,” we said when addressing Filaret.
When helping His Holiness to hold The Day’s gift, Archbishop of Chernihiv and Nizhyn, Secretary of the Holy Synod of the UOC-KP Yevstratii proposed to have it hung in the patriarch’s reception room, and His Holiness supported this idea.