Predictions of Church engagement in presidential elections
The most extreme case of political polarization of religious organizations was seen during the 2004 elections. According to Associate Professor of Lviv University Andriy Yurash such engagement can also be expected at the presidential elections early in the New Year.
He believes that Yanukovych (Leader of the Party of the Regions), Symonenko (Leader of the Communist Party) and others with pro-Russian leanings will count on support from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate [UOC MP]. Yanukovych made this unequivocally clear during the visit of Patriarch Kyril to Ukraine.
On the other hand, he assumes, politicians from the “democratic camp” will definitely seek support from those Church organizations committed to retaining Ukraine’s autonomous status, these being the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate [UOC KP], the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and also the Protestant Churches.
He believes that Church organizations will want to cooperate with political forces as a kind of guarantee for the existence of their church. For example, UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate which has existed already 20 reads in Ukraine, understands that if a political regime comes to power which is aimed at supporting UOC of the Moscow Patriarchate, this could place the very existence of the Kyiv Patriarchate at risk.
It is therefore natural that the latter should support those political figures who guarantee political opportunities for its preservation and development.
“If they completely distanced themselves from the political process they would thus free the hands of those political groups which absolutely theoretically, perhaps, would in some time raise the question of the Church’s right to exist”, Andriy Yurash is convinced
On 24 August at a ceremonial session of the Lviv City Council, the Metropolitan of Lviv and Sokal (of UOC KP) Andriy Horak stated that priests should interfere in politics and in their churches exhort people to be patriots of their country.
“We must carry the word between people who come to churches. However we must carry not only God’s Word, but also educate people in patriotism, commitment and love for the State of Ukraine and their people”.
“In half a year we await a great dilemma, who will stand at the helm of our great, and let’s say, beloved country. That will all depend only on us”, he added.
He stated that a little earlier the view had been expressed by one of the high-ranking members of one of the Ukrainian Churches that the Church should not interfere in politics. The Metropolitan commented on these words saying: “I personally reject the words of some churches that they distance themselves from political life in Ukraine. Yes, as an individual you can do that however as a representative of the Church you are obliged to direct people how they should behave and who they should elect so that later they don’t say that they elected the wrong person.”