“Pavlo will meet his murderer and blame him before God’s face,” His Beatitude Sviatoslav

Sunday, 24 July 2016, 15:36
Murder of Pavlo Sheremet caused me to ask His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the Head of the UGCC, who is a doctor of moral theology, several questions about life and death, about devaluation of human life, and about the punishment for the sin of intentional human killing.

Being in a state of war when our soldiers perish and receiving practically every day the news about terrorist attacks and homicides, we constantly come across with death. It becomes somewhat customary. What is the Christian view of life and death?

 

One of the awful sides of life in the contemporary Ukraine is devaluing the human life. We very easily get used to the information about deaths and killings at the front. Someone regard this as a daily routine of a country in war. However, lowering the threshold of sensitivity towards the sacredness of human life is extremely dangerous because it draws us into the closed circle of murders, terrorist attacks and other forms of disrespect for human life.

And when the value of human life comes to nothing, then the tragedy of its loss is not felt. We see how today in a barbaric way the body of a killed person or perished soldier may be treated. Sometimes a person is dishonored even after death. There are a lot of anonymous graves and we cannot identify the person. Under such circumstances the Church has to proclaim the Gospel of life – proclaim an absolute sacredness and immunity of human life. No one has power over his life. The Lord is the source of life, in His hands and His competence lie the beginning and end of our life.

 

Any reasons, as Metropolitan Andrej Sheptytsky in his time aptly underlined it, “any ratios”, neither state nor political, do not release from the responsibility for murder

 

We absolutely condemn homicide, war, and terrorist attacks. For violence and killing cannot be instruments of solving geopolitical or social, or other issues. Killing is always a violation of God’s Commandment “You shall not kill!” Any reasons, as Metropolitan Andrej Sheptytsky in his time aptly underlined it, “any ratios”, neither state nor political, do not release from the responsibility for murder, particularly when we speak about murder of an innocent person.

Obviously, the duty of a country is to defend itself and protect life. But even in this case, as we say proportional self-defense, which could be connected with killing an unjust aggressor, nevertheless has another aim and context. Self-defense has protecting life as its goal. Today the voice of the Christian Church must be the voice for protecting the dignity of human life, its immunity, strong conviction of any terrorism, conviction of any violence on a person, particularly the sin of murder.

 

Which elements, which factors have the most destructive influence on accepting the dignity of human life?

 

Those factors are very numerous. It is impossible even to list them all! Any concrete historic context always reveals, perhaps, a specific side of those issues. In the contemporary Ukraine a homicide and

a terrorist attack are very often used as a means of intimidating the live people.  We saw this in the times of the Soviet totalitarianism. Murders, different kinds of cleansings of political or ethnic character… The single goal of this was to intimidate the society, to take away from it the ability to freely live and develop.

In such circumstances we have first and foremost to assert that death is not the end of life. We, Christians, believe in immortality of human soul, we believe that every person is to survive his or her death, and when someone kills another person, following the logic of diktat of the XX century, “Death solves all problems, no man - no problem”, it is a manifestation of the atheistic worldview. We see that history has proven such a position wrong.

 

That society which kills its citizens or does not provide a necessary development for them, is doomed to destruction

 

So if we really aspire to build a fair state, this consists in creating necessary laws and mechanisms which would protect human life from conception till natural death and foster its development and self-realization. Only such a society can be called progressive. A society, in which there is a threat to human life or where people feel that they cannot realize themselves, is a society of degradation and it will fail sooner or later regardless of how powerful this or that empire might seem. That is why a Christian homily about sacredness of human life, about dignity and immunity of every man – is a necessary foundation for building a successful society, which would have a future. That society, which kills its citizens or does not provide a necessary development for them, is doomed to destruction. As well as those who use murders with a geopolitical or political aim.

 

On July 21 in Kyiv a cynical murder of journalist Palvo Sheremet took place. There happened, as moral theology puts it, the sin of intentional homicide. I would like to ask you, a doctor of moral theology, the following question: what is the moral assessment of this sin, what is the punishment for this?

 

I offer deep condolences to the family of innocently murdered journalist Pavlo Sheremet. Also,

I want to express my solidarity with the journalists’ environment which is now at the front line of the informational war. All of you I would like to address with the words of St. Pope John Paul II: “Be not afraid!” I guess this crime really had as its aim intimidation of all those who speak the truth about painful and complex issues of our life and the broader context of relations between countries. Particularly, when we speak about an open aggression against Ukraine.

That is why today when we bid farewell to him in Kyiv, on the one hand, we are praying for eternal repose of the servant of God Pavlo and on the other hand – we are expressing our solidarity with all journalists. To those who today accompany him on his last journey I desire to say the words: “Do not be afraid to speak the truth because only then we will be able to overpower and defeat those who lifted their hand against Pavlo Sheremet’s life.”

 

Recall Cain’s fate! The Lord, according to the Holy Scripture, put a sign on his forehead, which was a sign of constant living in fear, because a murderer will never have peace

 

When we look at this tragedy in a broader context, a murder will always find its revenge and punishment. We speak about two kinds of judgment. The first – is a state, public one according to the country’s laws. We really hope for an independent and quick investigation of this murder. The killers must be punished. Otherwise – such terrorism and destabilization of the situation will go on, in particular, in Kyiv.

We, Christians, also speak about God’s judgment. Even when a criminal won’t be reached by the punishing hand of a man in this life, God’s right hand will be on this person and his conscience will never let him rest. Recall Cain’s fate! The Lord, according to the Holy Scripture, put a sign on his forehead, which was a sign of constant living in fear, because a murderer will never have peace. This concern for his own skin will drive him from place to place and he will never find protection and safety for himself.

When we speak about eternity, final God’s judgment, when all people stand before God’s face: both alive and dead, then Pavlo will meet his murderer and blame him before God’s face. We assert this from the point of view of Christian faith, faith that God is the culmination of justice. He is the one who will repay, as we read about this in Apostle Paul.

 

Interview in Ukrainian: Fr. Ihor Yatsiv