George Weigel lays out the thoughts of Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk on what is at stake for Ukraine on May 25.
The May 25 election is “crucial.” As the archbishop put it, this could be and should be “the most free and open election” in Ukraine’s post–Cold War history as an independent state. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, he said, was urging its people to participate fully in the preelection debate, and to “vote with care” for a “unifying figure” around whom the entire country can rally in the face of Russian aggression, Western dithering, and local agitations and fears.
The preelection Russian propaganda and destabilization campaign, he noted, is aimed at nothing less than to “divide and disintegrate” Ukraine, making the free, fair, and open election sought by the people of the Maidan difficult if not impossible. But the archbishop and his Church are determined to do everything possible to see that the election was an expression of “the values of Maidan”: “respect for persons as persons, not as members of an ethnic or religious subdivision of society”; “unity” among all Ukrainians, of whatever background; “integrity” in public life; a determination to “go forward as one country.”
It was finally, the archbishop suggested, a question of faith: Ukrainians must “believe in our country” and believe in Ukraine’s future as Ukraine. And if they did so, he implied, the Ukrainians, like the Poles to whom John Paul II returned their authentic national identity in June 1979, would find tools of resistance to Russian aggression that would permit them to live the new saint’s signature challenge: “Be not afraid!”
“St. John Paul II,” Major-Archbishop Shevchuk said, “will protect us and protect the world from new iron curtains and new Berlin Walls.”