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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Liubomyr HUZAR:

We must work very hard to make people change their life philosophy
28 October, 2010 - 00:00

The Greek Catholic clergy had not been authorized for a long time to take part in elections — already back in 2006 the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) resolved to forbid priests to run for public offices of all levels. The Day has discussed this and many other issues with the UGCC head, His Beatitude Liubomyr HUZAR.

Your Beatitude, could the current political situation be different if the Ukrainian (truly Ukrainian) Church were openly telling people for whom to vote?

“This sounds very good, but, in principle, it is not a duty of the church to campaign for somebody. Basically, the church is supposed to pursue a totally different goal. The church must not dictate lay people, even if they are believers, what they ought to. People should decide such things by themselves, on the basis of their own persuasions. For we have regrettable evidence that the church in various countries, including our neighbors, has been trying to exert a direct influence on whom the people should vote for. This had a negative and, I would say, almost tragic, effect on the church. The church went beyond the limits of its competence.

“It would be wrong to say that it would be better if the church dictated and the flock listened. Why should we be so sure of it? We preach the Divine Law, and the latter does not say that we must instruct what concrete person or political forces should be voted for. The church is clearly saying that those who have assumed responsibility for the common good of the state and the people must obey the Divine Law and behave according to their vocation and duty. The church is saying this, but it has no right at all to say who these people are.”

But, with due account of the grave political situation, the church should perhaps change some of its principles and be more than just a church?

“It is dangerous — if simply in terms of human relationships. As I have said, the church would thus have overstepped its competences. It was not created to dictate and become a body of power.

“There are instances of theocratic communities and societies, where religious preachers take the liberty of dictating people how they should live and what to wear… Nobody will say that this is an example to emulate.”

What do you mean?

“Take, for example, Iran. There is a large group of religious preachers there, who impose their idea of what the state should look like. This kind of approach is always dangerous. And how can the clergy know what the right policy is? For we are totally unprepared for this; we have not been taught this; we have been taught about the Divine Providence, which we are supposed to put across to the people. We have been taught to help people live the way God ordained. We are only competent in this.

“Naturally, it may happen that a priest goes in for politics — not because he is a priest but because he has a certain divine gift of political leadership. It may seem at first that he will be an ideal leader. But it is always dangerous if people overstep the limits of their vocation and begin to do what is not part of their duty.

“This applies even to such major figures as Andrey Sheptytsky and Josyf Slipyj, who were very respectable and true spiritual leaders, who helped the state and tried to stand up for the people. In the 1920s, Sheptytsky would visit various political centers in order to win more freedoms for the people and the right to a more adequate way of life, but he never laid claim to the presidency or the like.

“It is very dangerous when we begin to regard the clergy as a universal public figure.”

What is the significance of Agafangel running on the Party of Regions ticket?

“I once attended a meeting organized by the Razumkov Center. There were representatives of different political groups there. It was somebody else, not Metropolitan Agafangel, who was running. And I asked: ‘How can that poor man be an MP and a bishop at the same time?’

“In other words, these are two jobs that demand a wholehearted effort. Both of these occupations take a lot of time and study. Frankly speaking, I cannot imagine how this man will manage to do both things.

“When we preach the Divine Word, the church is infallible, for we are speaking on behalf of God, not of ourselves.

“Tell me how this man will look in the believers’ eyes if he makes a mistake as a politician? In the eyes of those who are looking up to him as their pastor? Quite naturally, they will lose trust in him, for he is doing what he should not do. He will no longer be treated fairly – instead, he will be suspected of being engaged in all kinds of dirty businesses, no matter what the actual situation is. In other words, this creates an unhealthy situation that may have dangerous consequences.”

Is it in general worthwhile for clergymen to try to assume an office?

“They must decide clearly on one thing or the other. Your can simultaneously ride two horses in a circus only. In real life, you should adhere to and, accordingly, do one thing. Only then will you win respect and trust.

“Our church looks at this as follows: if a priest has chosen to go in for politics or assume office, he must come to his bishop and say: ‘As long as I am a political figure, I will not act as a clergyman.’ But this naturally raises a question: what has this priest done to prepare worthy lay candidates for the government he is going to head?”

What effect can the current government’s actions have on the spiritual condition of the people?

“I do not think we should take so tragic a view of things. Yes, the current government is not without certain weaknesses that have a negative effect on our life, but this is not the end. Any government in a democracy will change sooner or later. Let us recall Hitler and Stalin, who wielded so much power that nothing seemed to be able to shake them, but their time also came to an end. Yet ours is a democratic state, although we are not mature enough as democrats. Let us say that we are on the way to true democracy. People can always straighten out the situation with the government.

“The government should understand that, in the end, they will stand a people’s trial. Historians and ordinary people will later say whether the leadership performed well or not. And if the leader performed badly, what face will he show to the people, what will he hand down to his children?

“Many people think that the current situation is very tragic. No, it is not tragic. On the contrary, owing to this situation, people will gradually begin to see through things and properly assess what is going on.

“People themselves should behave democratically: they should respond to this government responsibly, consistently and step by step, they should not let themselves be browbeaten. If necessary, they should react to dishonesty and do this at full voice. We do not want a bloody revolution. We want a free-flowing process of growth, for we are now in this very phase.

“Like its predecessors, the current leadership cannot possibly say that it is the acme of democracy and that it is infallible.”

Do you think that today’s Ukrainians are really helpless or just lazy?

“Ukrainians are indifferent and do not know what to choose. In other words, they are still to become true democrats. For democracy needs conscientious, wise and responsible people. Democracy is the power of all, not just a few hundred, people. So all the conscientious people have no right to sit with their arms folded and wait for what will happen.”

So we are not democratic at all…

“Absolutely. No wonder, though, for we have been under somebody’s occupation for centuries on end. Even if we once had courage, it was eradicated. All of our top intellectuals were persecuted, physically destroyed, and let to rot in prison camps. It is in general surprising that we managed to remain as strong as we are.”

Have you received any well-grounded responses to your numerous interviews and addresses to the leadership?

“Nothing very important.”

What is the current situation with the construction of a temple in Odesa?

“You know, it seems to me it is somebody’s oversight: it may be bad that every duly registered church and religious organization in Ukraine enjoys certain rights. And these rights do not depend on what others may think of this.

“The tragedy of the situation in Odesa and in other places is that somebody deliberately does not want to understand that there must be a constitution and constitutional rights for all, no matter if they are ten million, ten thousand, or a thousand. Everybody has rights. Otherwise, there may be negative consequences for those who make this kind of decisions.

“When somebody begins to cry out that only he deserves something and the government is blindly satisfying this wish, it is not a healthy situation. It is tough for me to admit this, but things are what they are. We are not properly bringing up children and young people.

“Again, people who were not raised in a democracy are very fond of short, fast-track, and even strong-arm solutions.”

What do you call the current period in Ukraine?

“Transition. A period of development that requires patience and hard work. We have done very much in 20 years, but let us not forget that our independence was possible thanks to the sacrifices of our parents and grandparents. Nobody gave us independence — only the Lord can do so.

“What does a transitional situation mean? A transition from the past communist regime to a full-fledged democracy. This transition cannot occur easily and overnight. It will take some time. Why? Because it is a change in the thinking patterns and the life philosophy of many people. This is the reason for the difficulties. We have to work very hard to make all people change their life philosophy. I think this will take at least two generations — no sooner than that. We should not lie to ourselves: we are still very far from the goal but, thank God, past the very beginning of the road.”

Can you please remind our readers what is eternal.

“Only God and the Divine Truth. People are transient. Each of us comes, lives, and passes away, but God is the beginning and the end. If we engage ourselves in this divine process, we will benefit both personally and in group.”

By Oksana KLYMONCHUK, special to The Day