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Ecumenical Patriarch addresses Ukrainian Nation on 75th anniversary of Holodomor

The Holodomor is the name given to the famine that took place in Soviet Ukraine in the 1932-1933 agricultural season, as part of a wider famine which took place in other regions of the USSR. The famine was caused by the food requisition actions carried by Soviet authorities. The Holodomor is considered one of the greatest national catastrophes to affect the Ukrainian nation in modern history where millions of inhabitants of Ukraine died of starvation in an unprecedented peacetime catastrophe. Estimates for the total number of casualties within Soviet Ukraine vary between 2.2 million (demographers’ estimate) and 3-3.5 million, and up to 14 million (historians’ estimate).

The address of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the Holodomor in Ukraine to the Entire Pious Ukrainian Nation can be read below:

Beloved children of the Church, dear Ukrainians!

By God’s Providence, we have another occasion for a paternal address to you. The Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, hereby again addresses you to share with you not only joy, but also the grief caused by the Holodomor.

The few sons and daughters of the Ukrainian nation whom the Lord helped to survive at the time of the Ukrainian tragedy, the Holodomor of 1932-1933, increasingly often are leaving forever their homes, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Therefore, our address is first of all to young people representing the future of the Ukrainian state.

Together with you, we seek to comprehend not only the number of Ukrainians killed by the famine, but, above all, the causes which led to the tragedy. Let us leave the study of the political and social causes to secular scholars. We will try to look at the Holodomor from the Church’s viewpoint. Why did Ukraine, which from ancient times supplied bread to countries which lacked it, begin at a peaceful time to starve more severely than any European nation did in times of war?

The power of the newly-established state on the territory of the collapsed empire replaced the star of Bethlehem with one of human blood, and in place of Christ’s purple, which absorbed the holy blood of the Savior of the world and which has been its holy banner, leading to eternal life and always followed by believing people, the red flag began flying, which made the innocent blood of the best sons and daughters of your nation invisible.

As soon as an oppressor comes to power, he does not care about the good of the governed native nation or respect its spiritual, cultural and material values. He knows well that sooner or later the people will begin to see and get rid of the yoke. Therefore, to ensure a long rule, it is necessary to terrorize the titular nation. The preserved historic documents of the Soviet Union are rich in information about the nationality of the repressed. The overwhelming majority of the destroyed, imprisoned or exiled people were Ukrainians who were nationally conscious or good managers. The inspirers, organizers, managers and chief executors of the extermination of the Ukrainians were people who can be described with the words of Jesus Christ: “You belong to your father, the devil… He was a murderer from the beginning…” (Jn. 8:44)

Three holodomors, repressions, and war should have become for you, the Ukrainian nation, a stimulus to spiritual purification, moral improvement, return to your forefathers` Christian tradition with its own Church and internal Christian spirituality and not an imported external, formal Christianity verging on the worship of ritual. And our visit to Kyiv for the celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus-Ukraine showed us the real sons and daughters of the Ukrainian Church, who pray to God and not to man, even if he holds a high post. We saw that even the terrors of the 20th century did not break the backbone of the nation, did not make the Ukrainian a slave and obedient executer of other people’s intentions.

We call all to turn their faces to Kyiv, to Ukrainian spiritual shrines, religious and cultural, to the Ukrainian nation: all people born in Ukraine have one and the same mother, Ukraine, which should be served by everyone, without exception, both those vested with power and “small” citizens. Remember the Savior’s words: “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” (Matt. 12:25)

Dear Ukrainians! Your past, whether joyful and victorious or sad and tragic, especially the Holodomor, will always remain with you, even when you try to forget, diminish or distort it to please your neighbors. The following words of the Apostle Paul apply to you: “Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.” (1st Cor. 7:24) Your calling is to be good Christians within the ancient Ukrainian Church tradition and citizens of Ukraine, as well as to witness unanimously to the tragedies of the Ukrainian nation in the 20th century, especially the Great Holodomor of 1932-1933, to the world. It is your duty to the memory of your great grandparents, grandparents and parents, for there was no tragedy in human history when more representatives of a single nation were destroyed in one peaceful year than during the several years of a war. And no matter what anyone says or if they try to belittle the evil, this is the clear sign of genocide.

Children of Christ’s Church, dear Ukrainians! In the days of remembrance of the victims of the Great Holodomor of 1932-1933, especially on its 75th anniversary, your Mother-Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, grieves together with you and expresses its deep and sincere sympathies to all of you and Ukraine’s President, Viktor Yushchenko, who represents Ukraine before the world and through whose persistent efforts the world learns increasingly more information about the terrible tragedy of Ukrainians in the 20th century. We bring our prayers to our Lord Jesus Christ and ask the Most Gracious Savior to give rest in holy dwellings to the souls of all those killed by the Famine and admit them to the assembly of His Martyrs as those innocently killed. May their memory live forever and may the heavenly blessing of the Most High be on you who are alive!

At the Phanar, 20 November 2008

+ Bartholomew

Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch

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