KIEV, Ukraine – The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has defended his decision to support President Viktor Yushchenko’s recent dismissal of parliament, which some argue has deepened a constitutional crisis.
“Our declaration didn’t back any party – it merely recalled that the church has not forgotten people, nor has God,” said Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev-Halych, in an April 24 interview with Ukraine’s Fokus weekly.
“Matters have advanced so far that there’s now a need for urgent consultations with the nation,” he said. “There appears to be no contact at all between the nation and its rulers.”
Yushchenko issued a decree dissolving the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, April 2. He claimed political deadlock was preventing reforms agreed upon after Ukraine’s December 2004 Orange Revolution.
Supporters of Ukraine’s pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich rejected the president’s decision.
Although the Constitutional Court is set to rule on the dispute, its neutrality and effectiveness have been questioned widely. Elections for parliament currently are set for June 24.
Cardinal Husar and other Christian leaders had said in a statement April 5 that the president’s decree was “the best way out of the current situation.”
Protesting the statement, Ukrainian legislators wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI saying they were “especially distressed” by the Catholic Church’s position.
“Active involvement of Christian congregations in Ukraine’s political life is, unfortunately, nothing new,” the legislators said in the letter published by the Russian news agency Interfax.
“We would like to believe the … church will remain above the political struggle,” they said. “We hope close cooperation between the Roman Catholic Church and its European colleagues will make it more religious, tolerant and wise.”