Skip to comments.Pope praises Ukrainian-Catholic Church for upholding Sacred Tradition, communion with Seat of Peter
Posted on 03/16/2006 1:24:30 PM PST by NYer
Vatican City, Mar. 16, 2006 (CNA) - Today, the Vatican released a letter sent by Pope Benedict XVI to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, major Archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians, recalling the forced fusion of Catholics into the Orthodox Church by the communist Soviet government in 1946.
The Popes message served to mark what he called "the sad events to which the cathedral of St. George at Leopoli was witness, in March of sixty years ago."
In the letter, which was dated February 22nd, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Holy Father recalled the infamous March 1946 date, during which "a group of prelates meeting in a pseudo-synod which took upon itself the right to represent the Church, made a serious attack against ecclesial unity.
Violence against those who remained faithful to the Bishop of Rome intensified, he wrote, giving rise to further suffering and forcing the Church to descend once again to the catacombs."
Despite this, the Pope expressed his thanks to God that "the Greek-Catholic Church did not disappear but continued to bear her own witness to the unity, sanctity catholicity and apostolicity of the Church of Christ."
The pontiff expressed hope that the anniversary would stimulate the Greek-Catholic community in Ukraine "to strengthen its intimate and committed bond with Peter's Successor."
He likewise emphasized how, "in the patient daily journey of faith, in communion with the successors of the Apostles, ... the Ukrainian Catholic community has managed to uphold Sacred Tradition in its integrity."
"In order, the Pope went on, for this precious heritage of 'Paradosis' (or Tradition) to survive in all its richness, it is important to guarantee the presence of the two great currents of the one Tradition - the Latin current and the Orthodox current.
Each, he said, contains the multiplicity of historical characteristics that the Ukraine has been able to express."
Benedict closed the letter by calling to mind what he called "the dual mission entrusted to the Greek-Catholic Church in full communion with Peter.
On the one hand, he wrote, her task is to ensure the oriental tradition remains visible in the Catholic Church, on the other, to favor the encounter of the traditions, bearing witness not only to their compatibility, but also to their profound unity in diversity."
On March 11, 2006 in order to commemorate Lviv pseudo-Council with prayer, a procession went down the streets of Lviv. Over six thousand of faithful participated in the procession. It began with a Memorial Service (Panachide) at St. Georges square. His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar concelebrated the Panachide with a number of UGCC bishops, among them His Grace Ihor Voznyak, Archbishop of Lviv, His Excellency Mykhail Koltun, bishop of Sokal, His Excellency Stepan Meniok, exarch of Donetsk and Kharkiv, His Excellency Mykhail Hrynchyshyn, apostolic exarch for Ukrainians in France, Benelux countries and Switzerland. Over 130 priests also joined the memorial service... Full text>>>
Thanks for posting. The history of the Ukrainian Catholic Church is one of heroism and fidelity, in the face of severe persecution.
As His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Batholomew II said after Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. George in the Phanar on the feast of St. Andrew this year, "Revisiting the past and examining human faults must continue in all directions ... because whoever consents to the misdeeds of another or tolerates them by his silence, shares the responsibility of their author." It is in this exact same spirit that I recount what follows.
The forced reunions with the Orthodox Church began at the Pseudo-Synod of Lviv, capital of Galicia (Halychnya) in Western Ukraine, an area occupied in 1939 by Hitler's Soviet allies and definitively incorporated into the USSR at the end of World War II. Lviv was the metropolitan see of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church to which most of the population of Western Ukraine belonged. A Polish Orthodox parish in Lviv was the only Orthodox Church in the entire region. The Russian Orthodox Church had no representation there at all. Only in the light of these simple facts can the oft-repeated and widely publicized present Russian Orthodox complaints about losing to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church almost all their Churches in the region of Galicia be placed in their proper context. 
In the winter of 1944-45 the Soviet regime prohibited all contact of the Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy with its clergy and faithful, and initiated a campaign of forced meetings and propaganda in favor of union with the Russian Orthodox Church. Opponents were arrested and tortured, in April 1945 the entire Greek Catholic hierarchy was imprisoned, and the Soviet regime recognized the "Initiative Group" of three Catholic priests, formed to carry out the government plan, as the sole authority over the Church, instructing them to make lists of all clergy who refused to recognize their authority. Under police protection this group carried out a feverish campaign of propaganda and threats. The NKVD pressured the unwilling clergy to sign a petition for union with Orthodoxy. Those who refused were arrested. At the end of February, thirteen Catholic priests were received into Orthodoxy in Kiev and the two celibate members of the "Initiative Group" were secretly consecrated Orthodox bishops. Their leader, Havriyil Kostel'nyk, a married priest, was elevated to the rank of mitred archpriest, the highest dignity open to the married clergy. 
On March 8-10, 1946, a "synod" of 216 terrorized priests and nineteen laypersons, orchestrated in Lviv under the leadership of this group, abolished the Union of Brest (1596). This purported to be a synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and to this day the Russian Orthodox Church has claimed it to be such and has steadfastly refused to repudiate either the synod or its own role in the charade. But as the Russian Orthodox Church authorities are well aware, the entire Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy was in prison, and the entire presidium of the synod had in fact already become Orthodox, though this was kept secret until the farce was a fait accompli. The action was followed by massive arrests, interrogations, abuse, trials, banishment and deportations, causing incalculable suffering and death.
Russian Orthodox authorities ever since have defended what was done as a canonically legitimate synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church that freely and legitimately abolished of the "forced" Union of Brest, and to this day they have refused to disclaim or condemn it. The Acts of the synod were published in Ukrainian in Lviv in 1946, and in 1982 the Moscow Patriarchate issued bowdlerized (i.e., deliberately doctored) versions in Russian and English for the 45th anniversary of the shameful charade.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was not destroyed but driven undergound, to re-emerge maimed but still vigorously alive when finally granted freedom in 1989, at which time almost the entire Russian Orthodox Church in Western Ukraine, clergy, parishes, and faithful, re-entered the Catholic Church en masse. Similar forced reunions with the Orthodox Church took place in 1947 in Transcarpathia, 1948 in Romania, and 1950 in Slovakia.
These are the unvarnished facts. This history is important for several reasons. First, it shows the demonstrable falsity of the accusation that the Catholic Church has "reinvented" or "resurrected" a dead and gone "Uniatism," thereby stalling the Orthodox-Catholic ecumenical dialogue. A more nuanced view, one corresponding to the historical facts, leads one to recognize the following realities.
Eastern Catholics were forced into the underground in the 1940's by one of the bitterest and most violent persecutions in Christian history. Although this was done by Stalinist regimes there is abundant and irrefutable evidence that it had the active support and/or collaboration of at least some Orthodox hierarchs and authoritative exponents. Each case must be taken by itself, and justice demands avoiding generalization, but there can be no doubt that ambiguous figures like Patriarch Justinian Marina in Romania, and Archbishop Makarij Oksijuk in Lviv and Transcarpathia, were active participants in these historic violations of human rights. And one of the chief Romanian Orthodox ideologues of modern times, the Orthodox priest and noted theologian Rev. Dumitru Staniloae (d. 5 Oct. 1993), gave wholehearted vocal support for this massive violation of human rights, insisting that the "reunion [of Greek Catholics with the Orthodox Church which took place in 1948] was entirely free and spontaneous. This is not only a patent lie; it is also a denial of the bitter suffering of martyrs. 
Thereafter, authoritative Orthodox exponents carried on for forty years a hateful, mendacious campaign concerning every aspect of the life and history of the Greek Catholic Churches, and of their "reintegration with the Mother Church" in the 1940's. As late as 1987, during the Gorbachev era when toadying to the party-line was no longer a matter of life or death, then Moscow Patriarch Pimen gave this mendacious account of these events to the Italian journalist Alceste Santini:
"The anti-Uniate sentiments of the faithful of Galicia and Transcarpathia were strengthened especially during the last war, when the Uniate hierarchy sided with the enemy of the fatherland, the German Nazi invaders. Such collaboration on thepart of the leaders of the Greek-Catholic Church provoked a natural reaction. And so the completion of the process of liberation from the union [with Rome] which was expressed in the Synods of 1946 in Lvov [Lviv] and of 1949 in Mukachevo gave rise to great satisfaction among the believers of Galicia and Transcarpathia." 
The business about the Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy and the Nazis is an oft-repeated calumny of the Soviets, who were, let us never forget, Hitler's allies in the 1939 invasion of Poland and Western Ukraine. Of course, after twenty-one years of Soviet rule practically everyone in the USSR initially welcomed the Germans as liberators. And one can only speculate to what "fatherland" Patriarch Pimen claims the Catholic bishops were being disloyal, since before the war Galicia was part of Austria, not the USSR. Furthermore, no synod whatever was held in Mukachevo, as Pimen knew perfectly well; and I have already detailed above the realities of the Lviv "synod."
This is but one of literally dozens of examples I have on file of mendacious public denials of the past from the highest Orthodox ecclesiastical authorities of the Soviet Bloc, a denial rendered even more ludicrous by the fact that even the NKVD agents responsible for orchestrating the drumhead 1946 Lviv synod have in the meantime spilled the beans publicly and in print. 
Apart from some religious dissidents condemned by their own Church authorities, and some secular scholars of good-will like Andrej Sakharov, slow and reluctant admissions of truth began to come from some official exponents of the Orthodox Churches only after continuing the mendacity became embarrassingly counterproductive when the world press, at last interesting itself in the issue, began to publish the true story.
Meanwhile the Greek Catholic Churches, some of whose membership (almost all in Galicia, Transcarpathia, and Slovakia; far fewer in Romania where the history and circumstances were quite different), having remained steadfast in their convictions, emerged from the catacombs to which they had been relegated and began to reclaim their heritage and give the lie to the systematic slandering of them and their history over the past fifty years. So there was no "rebirth of Uniatism," just an end to persecution and the shameful conspiracy of silence.
 Translated from the French as reported in Irénikon 73 (2000) 112.
 Only in the light of the facts can one evaluate fairly, and in context, statements like the one made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, in an interview in Odyssey (August/Sept. 1993) 34: And in Russia, even if the Uniates owned the Churches before Stalin, today the ratio of Uniates to Orthodox in these places has changed. There are far more Orthodox today than Uniates, so the latter cant claim these buildings and want to take them back, be they schools or Churches, because where will the Orthodox go? Where will they commune? In the street? This is not Christian.Regarding the area in question, Galicia in Western Ukraine, where Greek Catholics were and are again the majority, that statement is simply false. And, I might add, where but in the street are many Romanian Greek Catholics, still deprived of their Churches, celebrating liturgies in Romania?
 He was assassinated, presumably by his Soviet handlers, on Sept. 20, 1948.
 Ronald G. Roberson, CSP, Contemporary Romanian Orthodox Ecclesiology: the Contribution of Dumitru Staniloae and Younger Colleagues (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Pontifical Oriental Institute, Rome 1988) 208-209; cf. 206-212 for a complete discussion, with abundant bibliography and citations from Staniloaes support of the forced reintegration. Roberson is sympathetic to the figure on whom he chose to write his thesis, which makes the documentation he presents more devastating. On negative aspects of Stanisloaes career before and after the Communist period, see: Olivier Gillet, Religion et nationalisme. Lidéologie de lÉglise orthodoxe roumaine sous le régime communiste (Collection «Spiritualités et pensées libres», Éditions de lUniversité de Bruxelles, Bruxelles 1997) 92, 136.
 The publication in western, even Catholic journals of laudatory necrologies (e.g., Irénikon 66, 1993; Sobornost 16:1, 1994) of this apologist for one of the 20th centurys great crimes against humanity without a word about this aspect of his career must be branded a moral scandal.
 Mille anni di fede in Russia. Pimen, Patriarca di Mosca e di tutte le Russie intervistato da Alceste Santini (Cinisello Balsamo [Milano]: Edizioni Paoline, 1987) 216.
 Most recently on the topic, see Werner Maser, Der Wortbruch. Hitler, Stalin und der Zweite Weltkrieg (Munich: Günter Olzog Verlag, 1994).
 The matter has been treated with historical objectivity by an author who is by no means an apologist for the Catholic Church: Hansjakob Stehle, Sheptytskyi and the German Regime,in P.R. Magocsi (ed.), Morality and Reality. The Life and Times of Andrei Sheptyts'kyi (Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton 1989) 125-144. Sheptytskyi was the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church during the war. Stehle says, Quite unlike the Orthodox Metropolitan Polikarp [of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church] who, as late as May 1944, was still praying for Hitlers victory over the Jewish Communists, Metropolitan Sheptytskyi grounded his hope exclusively in religious faith(ibid. 139). For a Jewish witness to Sheptytskyjs efforts to save Lvivs Jews from the Nazi occupiers, see Rabbi David Kahane, Lvov Ghetto Diary (Amherst: University of Mass. Press, 1990).
 See Serge Keleher, Passion ad Resurrection The Greek Catholic Church in Soviet Ukraine 1939-1989 (Lviv: Stauropegion, 1993), with its rich Appendix of historic documents (pp. 187-298), all from the Soviet period, including the fascinating account, Here We Are Lord!, first published in Russian in the well-known Soviet satirical journal Ogonëk N 38 (Sept. 1989) 6-8, giving the true story of the Lviv pseudo-synod of March 8-10, 1946, with the testimony of a sixty-year old colonel of the Soviet security forces, who had been an actual participant in the farce, ironically juxtaposed with contemporary statements from Russian Orthodox Metropolitan (now patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate) Filaret (Denysenko) of Kiev and Galicia (p. 264) repeating the customary lies claiming the reunionorchestrated by the 1946 Lviv Pseudo-Council had been free,as in the officialSoviet line on the reunion.
See B.R. Bociurkiw, The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Soviet State (1939-1950) (Edmonton/Toronto: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies Press, 1996) 179-80, esp. note 127, and 238-43; on Filaret, 241.
Among the other documents, many available here in English for the first time, are: The Articles of the Union of Brest; the Decrees of the Eparchial Synod of the Greek-Catholic Church in Petrograd, May 29-31, 1917; the letter to Molotov of Greek-Catholic priests repudiating the activities of the Initiatory Groupformed in 1945 to instigate the forced reunionwith the Orthodox Church; the January 15/28, 1950 pastoral letter of the Orthodox bishops in Western Ukraine and Transcarpathia concerning the consolidationof the reunionwith Orthodoxy and the abolition of Catholic or Latin practices from the liturgy; The Life of the Ukrainian Catholic Church,a January 1980 document from the underground Church detailing the Churchs continued exisence and the persecution it was undergoing; the August 4, 1987 Open Letter to His Holiness John Paul II from the bishops, priests, monastics and faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church,publicly announcing their emergence from the underground because of the better conditions under Gorbachev; the April 7, 1989 appeal to Gorbachev; the April 7, 1989 letter of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Metropolitan Volodymyr (Sterniuk) of Lviv to Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Bishop Isidore (Boretsky) of Toronto and Eastern Canada, and the latters response; the August 27, 1989 pastoral letter of the same Metropolitan Volodymyr of Lviv and Halych, the first formal public statement of the metropolitan to his flock in Ukraine; the September 1989 open letter to Gorbachev of leading Ukrainian intellectuals. The rambling account concludes with eyewitness testimony of the Churchs spontaneous rebirth in the Gorbachev period, followed by documents relative to Gorbachevs meeting with Pope John Paul II on December 1, 1989; the Declaration of the Council for Religious affairs at the Council of Ministers of Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic concerning their intention to resolve positively the problem of the freedom of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church; and, finally, the Statement of the March 17, 1990 Synod of Bishops of the Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine on the interruption of the negotiations of the Quadripartite Commission for the Normalization of Relations between the Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches in Western Ukraine.
Excerpted from ANAMNESIS NOT AMNESIA
The Healing of Memories and the Problem of Uniatism
21st Kelly Lecture, University of St. Michaels College,
Toronto, Canada, 1 December 2000
The Very Rev. Archimandrite Robert F. Taft, S.J.
Vice-Rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome
Recently, EWTN televised a documentary on the Ukrainian Catholic Church. It contained actual film footage from the cold war years, showing these valiant catholics' attempt to salvage icons and religious items from their desecrated churches. They hid these items in their homes. A catholic underground emerged with priests risking their lives to say Mass in the homes of devout catholics. The film was spellbinding.
It also showed the current Ukrainian Catholic Church which is growing so rapidly that they have to turn youth away from the seminaries and convents, for lack of space. I emailed EWTN hoping to purchase a copy but it was not produced by them. They suggested monitoring their web site and promised that it would be re broadcast at a later date. If you get the chance, don't miss it!
Thanks for that post! See my comments, above, to Thorin. If you get the chance, don't miss the EWTN rebroadcast of that special.
Thanks for the posting!
Hits hard home, We lived through the prosecution, lost my father and sister to commies, just because they refused to switch over to KGB ran "orthodox church". Proud to survive and keep the true religion. It pains me to see what is happening here in US with RATs attacking religion with Hollywierdsky filth and hammering the president.
Vote the bastRATs out into oblivion!