Kyiv hosts the Ecumenical Social Week for the first time


An annual ecumenical event seeks to address the present-day challenges of the Ukrainian society in the spirit of joint action and solidarity.

The 10th Ecumenical Social Week “Dignity – Service – Solidarity: towards a renewed country” starts in Kyiv. The all-Ukrainian forum aims at uniting efforts of the community, authorities, civil society, churches and representatives of the education sector to address the actual social problems based on universal human values and the social doctrine of the church. The Forum was organized by the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Ukrainian Catholic University. It is taking place in Kyiv for the first time.

“Our event cannot address all the problems of the forty-million nation; however, it may attest that we are not giving up, that the experience that we lived through on Maidan is truthful and that God is there in our history and we, Christians, have to jointly attest it. The Soviet Union exists no more, Yanukovych’s authoritarian regime exists no more, however there are new, significant challenges. And we can address them only in the spirit of solidarity, with mutual recognition of dignity and the desire to serve jointly,” said Bishop Borys Gudziak, president of the Ukrainian Catholic University, head of the Diocese of St. Volodymyr the Great in Paris for the Ukrainians of Byzantine Rite in France, Switzerland and the Benelux countries at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

“This year’s theme is Dignity – Service – Solidarity. We got much to do in this area and we shall present our proposals by the end of the week. As a historian I tend to think that Christians of different churches have to come up with particular suggestions on how to achieve peace between Ukraine and Russia as well as between Russia and the Western Europe as a real war is on. […] There is an opportunity for intellectuals, theologians and historians to meet up and see what the in-depth reasons of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia on the one hand and between Russia and Europe on the other are. We suggest establishing a commission with representatives of various countries and various churches in it,” said Antoine Arjakovsky, founder of the Ecumenical Social Week event in Ukraine.

“Such projects give us a chance to get to know each other better and see ourselves being part of this world and part of this city. When we speak about ecumenism we need to look not at the differences but at what we have in common. That is the best way to start a dialogue,” said Diana Popova, director of the culture department of the Kyiv city state administration.

In the morning on June 7 at the St. Oleksander’s Church there was an ecumenical prayer for unity of Christians and for the peace in Ukraine. Official opening of the Ecumenical Social Week will take place in the main building of the Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University at 13.00 and will see representatives of different churches, education sector, civil society organizations and Kyiv city authorities participating. Simultaneously an open discussion “Dignity – Service – Solidarity: towards a renewed country” will be held. On the same day at 17.00 on the 2nd floor of the university an exhibition “Patriarch Josyf Slipyj: being yourself!” will be opened. It was prepared by the Institute of church history in cooperation with the Kyiv-based center of the Ukrainian Catholic University and the Department of external relations of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. The 10 banners being part of the exhibition present photos and quotes of Josyf Slipyj from his “Testimony” work, demonstrate the Patriarch’s life position and his view of the future that Ukrainians and the Church have.

On June 8 the seminar of the Ukrainian Christian Academic Society “Unity of Ukraine’s Christians – a new format” will be held at the Open Orthodox University of St. Sophia; the discussion “Present-day cooperative movement in Ukraine as a way of empowering communities” will take place at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “In Ukraine we have many potential businessmen. […] We will be saying that it is possible to be a successful businessman and a good Christian at the same time as well as that it is possible to be an honest businessman,” said Father Ivan Datsko, president of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Ukrainian Catholic University. On the same day the St. Thomas Aquinas Institute of Religious Sciences will host a round table discussion “Social service as a mission and vocation of the church”. International speakers will take part in all the events, including the ones from France, Italy and Poland.

On June 9 the Kyiv-based center of the Ukrainian Catholic University will host a BARCAMP for youngsters “Life guidelines: on the road of testimony, service and communication”. “We will try to find the answers to the questions how to testify, communicate and deliver service today, in this postmodern, post-communist and post-Maidan Ukrainian society,” elaborated Bishop Borys Gudziak. Acting Healthcare Minister Ulana Suprun and Director of the A-BA-BA-HA-LA-MA-HA publishing house Ivan Malkovych will attend the event. The discussion will be followed by a master-class to enhance leadership skills offered by the Ukrainian Leadership Academy. At 19.00 the concert of folk and spiritual music “Prayer for Ukraine” will take place at the Voskresinnya Khrystovoho (Resurrection of Christ) Cathedral, the event will also feature performance of the Maiboroda national bandura chapel, Revutsky municipal academic male choir as well as of the Khreshatyk academic chamber choir.

The Forum’s detailed program in English is available here.