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Address of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onufry on the occasion of the Day of Ukrainian Statehood

July 28, 2023

Dear brothers and sisters! Honourable Ukrainians! Dear compatriots!

I congratulate you all on the Day of Ukrainian Statehood!

This state holiday, which was established two years ago, has acquired special significance for our country today. Today, our people are fighting for preserving our state, for its independence and territorial integrity, which was violated as a result of the treacherous invasion of Russian troops.

Every Christian is not only a citizen of heaven – the Kingdom of Heaven, where he is called by the Lord, but also a citizen of his earthly Motherland, in our case – Ukraine. The protection of one’s Motherland is the sacred duty of every citizen, and therefore of every believer of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

From the first day of the Russian invasion, our Church called everyone to the defense of our state and came to it, thereby refuting the many years’ systematic accusations and slanders that were made against us in mass media. Today, our faithful are fighting at the front, helping in the hinterland, collecting aid for the Armed Forces of Ukraine. As the Church, as a community of believing citizens, we are a part of our state. Perhaps we do not say much and do not make frequent and loud statements, as someone would like, but by our daily work for the good of the country, we testify that we are with Ukraine, that we are for Ukraine, because we are Ukraine, because the believers of our Church are its integral part. We connect our earthly future with Ukraine.

The current holiday of Ukrainian statehood is associated with the memory of the outstanding state builder – the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Prince Volodymyr the Great, who enlightened our people with the light of Christ’s faith. An outstanding merit of the holy Prince was unification of the Slavic tribes that lived during his reign in the territory of present-day Ukraine into a single and strong state of ancient Rus’. Therefore, especially today, I urge you to do everything to strengthen the unity of our state, as well as to avoid everything that destroys our unity.

In the first weeks of the war we witnessed internal unification and consolidation of our society – it was the time that enemy troops stayed around Kyiv. However, after the enemy was defeated, disunity processes within our society started again. It is obvious that artificially created informational narratives about the “enemy Church”, about “Moscow priests”, about “Muscovites” and other labels that hang on us and on our Church harm the unity of our people, weaken our state and help the enemy.

Both Ukrainian Orthodox Church that is historical and traditional Church of the Ukrainian people, as well as our state, which is the heir of the state of the ancient Russ’ of Prince Volodymyr, are today in a difficult situation. Some of our dioceses and believers live now in the occupied territory. Often we have no connection with them; we can’t really help them except to pray for them. However, these are our dioceses, our people, we pray for them, we consider them our brothers and sisters, and we await their reunification with us in a united, independent Ukraine.

I believe that today, as in the time of Saint Prince Volodymyr, all of us should understand the importance of unity. We should not artificially make enemies of anyone within our people; everyone who cares about our country should be involved, not only in protecting, but also in building the future of our country; we should create an atmosphere of involvement of all citizens in the building of the future, instead of excluding or pushing certain parts of our people to the margins of society; we should maintain dialogue within the country, which should be conducted with respect for the differences of our neighbors. We should build and create the future of our country together!

I believe that with God’s help we will win this war and rebuild our Ukraine. I am convinced that in order to succeed in this matter, we should be strong and united, treat our neighbors with love and respect.

May God’s blessing be with all of us!

God, Great and One, save Ukraine for us!

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