Pope Francis And The Lutheran World Federation Neglect The Orthodox Christian Majority In Ukraine

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“Jesus Christ is the heart of ecumenism,” affirmed the Pope, “and our ecumenical mission is to witness to him.” 

The Lutheran World Federation, which does not include more traditional Lutheran bodies such as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the Evangelical Free Church (Germany), and, ironically, the Ukrainian Lutheran Church, recently met with Pope Francis in the Vatican to promote the hope of Ukrainian children for peace.

While the sentiment is laudable, it is noteworthy that there was no representative of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the canonical church in communion with the Patriarchate of Moscow and the largest Christian denomination in Ukraine, among the group. How could an initiative to promote peace in Ukraine not include representatives of the largest Christian denomination in the country?

This author’s great grandmother, from a border area today in Slovakia near the current Poland, then Austro-Hungary, was Ruthenian Catholic (Rutensky Catolicky). Ruthenian is an anglicization for Rusyn, from Rus, the historical culture of Carpatho-Russia, now straddling the lands of Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and parts of Romania. The Ruthenian Church remained Orthodox even after the schism of 1054 AD. In a theological-political event in 1646 AD, The Union of Uzhhorod, a number of Ruthenian Orthodox clergy were received into communion with Rome creating another kind of Schism with Rome and Moscow at odds for the recognition of the faithful.

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Just as Catholic parishioners in certain German principalities were instantly “Lutheran” when their leaders embraced Lutheranism, so was the instant Orthodox to Catholic shift in many areas today associated with Ukraine.

The resentment in Orthodoxy of this shift in allegiance is still palpable in any conversation with Eastern Orthodox clergy, who do not recognize the supremacy of the Papacy.

While the Lutheran World Federation, which does not include the more traditional, conservative Lutheran bodies of the world, meets with the Pope but does not include members of the canonical Orthodox Church, the message is duplicitous.

Surely, all good Christians pray for peace every day. The hashtag used by the LWF in its X post of this event reads #ChristianUnity. How can that be possible if the largest Christian body in Ukraine, one persecuted by the Zelensky regime (Zelensky Is Now Officially A Dictator – The Balkan), is not represented? 

Its exclusion may be a modern iteration of the theological earthquake of 1646, in which Rome and Moscow were put at odds for the love and allegiance of their adherents.

It is worth noting, that a priest from the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, added a footnote to this article, when sent to him for perusal:

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church, first of all, would not participate in any ecumenical initiative of Rome, besides the fact that it is persecuted.

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