The UGCC Synod’s message
The UGCC Synod’s message
The Synod’s message for the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the legalization of the UGCC, the 65th anniversary of the death of Metropolitan Andrey (Sheptytskyj), and the 25th anniversary of the death of Patriarch Joseph (Slipyj)
Dearly Beloved in Christ!
This year, which approaches its end, we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the legalization of the UGCC after decades of totalitarian prohibition and persecution. Also in the year 2009, two other anniversary dates were marked: the 65th anniversary of the death of the servant of God Metropolitan Andrey (Sheptytskyj) and the 25th anniversary of death of the Confessor of faith Patriarch Joseph (Slipyj). Together we ask God to accept our prayers and to rest their souls «with the souls of the righteous» and jointly remember the glorious times of our past which as if formed by the force of their spirit and satiated by the sacrifice of their work. We turn special attention to these two great spiritual figures, not wishing to forget two other church leaders – His Beatitude Major Archbishop Myroslav-Ivan (Liubachivs’kyj) and Archbishop Volodymyr (Sternyuk), whom God’s Providence put to serve the Church in the tragic, yet heroic, 20th century.
We hope the recognition of the anniversaries of the deaths of Metropolitan Andrey and Patriarch Joseph will became an occasion for special consideration. What way should we go to be faithful to the testaments of these great righteous men? Will their sacrifice continue to inspire us further to testify about Christ in the most difficult circumstances of our life? Answers for these questions we attempt to find, considering the acts, ideas, and teaching of these torches of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church that have long guided us.
Righteous of life and personal sacrifice as «live rocks» of Christian civilization
Not every one who talks to me: My Lord My Lord!
will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, only he who does the will o my Father, who is in the sky (Mt. 7:21).
The lives of Metropolitan Andrey and Patriarch Joseph became great examples of faith and love for our people. Thus, the choice of Roman Sheptytskyj on behalf of the Ukrainian Church and its offended people has warmed the hearts of many Ukrainians and directed their lives toward the service of their people. Just about every family of Halychyna has passed from generation to generation the touching story about the hard decision of the youth to become a Greek Catholic celibate priest and about the long, yet loving persuasion of his father, count Ivan Sheptytskyj, to bless his intention. This story still inspires new generations to monastic selfless devotion.
Fate had it that the metropolitan led the Church through two world wars. As power changed and whole empires disappeared, the familiar world with its traditional values fell into decay, and in its place came a cult of force and temptation of permissiveness. However, nothing could break the orientation of Bishop Andrey on the Creator and His commandments:
The program of our work is the following: We will obey the authority, follow the laws, as long as they are not in opposition to God’s law; we will not meddle in politics or secular affairs, we will not leave to work sacrificially for Christ’s case in our nation (Pastoral message from October 9, 1939).
From the government…
we expect a wise, just command and order which would take into account the necessities and the good of all citizens of Our Land, regardless of confession, nationality, or social class (Pastoral message on the occasion of the proclamation of the Act of Proclamation of the Ukrainian state on June 30, 1941)
With his testament the servant of God Andrey appeals to us even now during the hard times. New geopolitical unions will attract us and terrify the old forms of slavery, will tempt the goods of the modern world, and will guard the relapses of the old utopias. But let our spirit be uplifted above these stormy waves so that we, as well as our great Metropolitan, unfaltering see the harbor of Christ’s salvation.
No less eloquent is the life of Patriarch Joseph, which became the character of the Cross Road of all Ukrainian people in the 20th century:
Nightly imprisonments, secret unfair trials, endless interrogations and overseeing, moral and physical abuse, torture, starvation; malevolent investigators and judges, and before them me, a not defendable prisoner-convict, «mute witness of the Church,» who emaciated physically and mentally depleted, gives the testament to the native taciturn and to the death of the doomed Church (Testament).
This prisoner-convict became the example for many martyrs of the Ukrainian land and great spiritual support for the faithful in the fiercest time of the Gulag. By the criterion of the acts in this case there was no rein of authority or luxury of riches. Even if it is not known that the quoted ideas are taken from the «Testament» of the patriarch, the serious Christian will feel at once that these words sound testamentary:
This love to Christ, love to the Holy Church… love to the native Ukrainian nation… determined my vital working way, my thinking and my labour, when I was free and when in captivity. During my whole life I was, and such depart from this world, the prisoner of Christ!
That is why the testament of both great men of our Church – Metropolitan Andrey and Patriarch Joseph – is on the first glance a strange, but wise, paradox: to be the «prisoner of Christ» is the unique way to obtain the real spiritual freedom!
Observing the life of these prominent heads of the UGCC of the 20th century, we notice that their language, usual for that time, sometimes becomes almost incomprehensible for the pragmatic logic of the current epoch. Let’s listen attentively, as an example, to the prayer of the monastic novitiate Roman Sheptytskyj, with which he warrants his family to God:
Let’s give to it Christian mothers who would teach the children Your service, give it parents so they obviously and doughtily acknowledge Your holy faith and livedin the spirit of Your laws. Let’s perish for it, as did Saint Josaphat.
«To ask God for my family to perish for their faith? What is this stupidity» a «hero of our time» would say, who with deceit and dishonor recovers for himself and for his neighbors all the gold of the world, being convinced that it will bring good. Or in other words of this prayer:
Allow, My Lord, to choose from our family priests, apostles, holy martyrs.
Ask God for a martyr’s death? And why not ask for financial stability, high positions, authority, and glory? The acts of both torches of our Church were committed with a completely different logic. Even the high position and dignity dependent on the authority our great predecessors considered first the great responsibility and sacrificial ministry. Thus, already in his pastoral message to the faithful of the Stanislaviv Eparchy young Bishop Andrey convincingly formulated a credo:
From this moment I, on the order of Christ, have to be not only your brother, but also your pastor, your father; I have to live only for you, to work for you with all of my heart and soul, to devote everything to you, for you, as it will be needed, to lay down my life.
Can these words said by the bishop about the ministering not refer to each of us who is responsible for the fate and blessing of his close ones?
The ministering of Patriarch Joseph was filled with a similar spirit of sacrifice, which he summed up in his «Testament»:
As never before the sacrament of words of Christ was opened to me: «And you will be the witnesses for me…» (Ac. 1:9). To testify to Christ – to confess Him before people (cf. Luke. 12:8), not to renounce Him, to carry one’s cross, to suffer for Christ and with Christ, to be ready for sufferance and even to give one’s life for friends, not afraid of those who «kill the body» (Luke. 12:4).
«But how long is it possible to carry the crosses?! When will we simply live?» the dissuaded and impatient can ask again. And will aim to eradicate from fate of a secure life, not weighed down by the realization of one’s sinfulness and responsibility…
From these examples all the measures of de-Christianization of our souls appears before us. We no longer prepare for a martyr’s death and sacrifice for the latter is for us a sign of religious fanaticism and vital defeat. Many of our contemporaries are fascinated by the achievements of the secularized world and inspiringly talk about the priority of efficiency and clever use of the resources for what they disdainfully call moralization. After this world, we set for ourselves a purpose by any (it also can mean – unsolved) price to avoid suffering which is no longer God’s test for us and a way given by God to beatitude, and with truth or deceit obtain the desired result. The purpose of life of a person today often becomes not an imitation of Christ, whom through his sacrifice became the Rescuer of the world, but search for the most profit and satisfaction. Therefore, if for the «hero of our time» it would be necessary instead of God to decide where exactly God’s Child had to be born, he would choose not a poor shelter, but a tsar's chambers as «the most effective investment of human capital.»
However, such an attempt to avoid the moral-ethical dimension in one’s life turns around and becomes the main reason for our vital defeats. The Church does not advance against efficiency, faith in one’s possibilities, or the clever use of resources: all these are things, which, if they come from faith in God, indeed become the factors of success. However, the key here is faith in God, which forms our position and severs from our actions those who are opposed to God’s will. Otherwise we become «ourselves» for the sinful world and together with it we roll to the spiritual trap. And then, we, in any case, will need to pay – let’s say, does not the world community today pay a large price for uncontrolled amorality in financial business? With the encyclical «Charity in Truth» (Caritas in Veritate) Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that human dishonesty has a financial measuring. But this time it will be necessary for us to disburse for the unwillingness to consider the Divine law.
Therefore to deny the necessity of sacrifice – it is to think like Judas, who also loved Christ in his way, but wanted for Him luxurious power and the magnificence of a tsar's throne, because he put them above all. Exactly this earthly logic of Judas we sometimes do not want to acknowledge in ourselves. Instead, to have Christ as an example means to be spiritually ready to sacrifice, if the Lord will call us to it. Intentional search of sufferings is a temptation of God but humble and trustful willingness to accept them from God’s will as a gift which brings us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven is the only possible position from which we truly become Christians.
And when you resurrected with Christ, look higher to where Christ dwells, sitting on God’s right.
You shall think higher, not about the earth (Col. 3:1–2).
Both mentioned heads of our Church, carrying out their ministering and feeling the responsibility before God, placed large tasks before themselves and the faithful. Metropolitan Andrey (Sheptytskyj) was a builder of a Divine place – a large Christian civilization, one of the foundation stones that is a testament «to bloodshed.» At the beginning of the 20th century the primary part of his ministering, which was part of the Lord’s mission for his people, was uncovered: the spiritual preparation of the Church for martyrdom:
The time might come when blood will need to be spilt for the holy faith. For these hard times which approach, you and I need to be prepared (Pastoral Message to the clergy «About the dignity and obligations of a priest» on January 30, 1901).
With all the zealousness and energy of Christ Pastor Metropolitan embarked on this important affair of spiritual fortification and confirming faith in his people. And when the challenges came, he himself gave the example of firmness and courage, despite the threat it posed. Thus, at the beginning of World War I Bishop Andrey appealed to the faithful to remain loyal to the Church, «even if we have to dedicated a lot to it, and even one’s life,» for which he was forced to be imprisoned. When during World War II Soviet troops occupied Western Ukraine, the Hierarch of Halych appealed to Pope Pius XII with the personal request to share «apostolic and paternal benediction and to order, authorize, and appoint me to die for the Faith and Church… We will fill our task and the goliath of Soviet communism will step back.» Herein Metropolitan Andrey assured with deep conviction that the Bride of Christ is not able to overcome Hell’s gate, and the victory of forces of darkness can not be eternal.
With the same courage based on a deep trust in the Lord’s mission he protected the holiness of human life, appealing with letters to the leaders of Nazi Germany and organizing an action to rescue Jews. This confidence in the triumph of Truth, without regard to the awareness of the inevitability of cruel pursuits which await the hierarchy and faithful of the UGCC, he expressed on his deathbed:
Our Church will be destroyed, raided by Bolsheviks. But hold on; do not retreat from faith, from the holy Catholic Church. The heavy experience which will fall on our Church is temporal. I see the resurrection of our Church. It will be more beautiful, greater than the old one, and will embrace our whole nation.
Without the spiritual tempering of the epoch of Sheptytskyj we, the faithful of his Churches, probably, would not be able to stand before the pressure of god-fighting regimes, and most of all would not hope that after such frightful ruin that revival is possible. Thus, the Lord by the acts of Metropolitan Andrey gathered our nation for a great test.
This incredibly difficult but no less majestic task to conduct the Church through martyrdom and catacombs and to prepare it for the resurrection has fallen on the fate of the successor on the See of Halychyna – Patriarch Joseph (Slipyj). While in captivity he fully realized this incomprehensible project of God’s Provision – to «give a living testament to our Church» and, freed from the grasp of the Red serpent, began to exert all his efforts so that far beyond the borders of the motherland he could «complete that which he could not complete as a prisoner.» In his acts he also drew inspiration from faith:
I believed that our Church and our Nation would rise up from the ruins! From all the forces I tried to look for a way out of this almost hopeless situation, to lift up the Church and the Nation from ruin, in order to revive them (Testament).
In order to understand all the prophetic force of these words, it must be remembered that they were said during Good Friday. From deep Siberia, from exile the patriarch writes his glorious message «Wish for greatness!» in which he calls the persecuted spiritual children to trust God. Because that «greatness» which he talks about, it is not a dream about earthly riches and glory, but faith in God in whose hands is the fate of people and nations; it is holiness to which God calls everyone and every Christ’s disciple.
«Wish for greatness!» This is an extraordinarily rich in content and deserving of Christ utterance and call! What greatness can be wished for, obviously, having God before the eyes?.. To cooperate with the God’s gusts, not to lose them and not to outlay the forces on trifles and on the things which are passing by, not to stop on the misery things, to share and to fasten Christ’s Church, but foremost to obtain great holiness, because God called us not to impurity, but to holiness (1 Sol. 4:7), – this is that greatness for which Christ’s disciples must wish.
What should we, the descendants of these great leaders of the Church, do today? To rest on the great laurels obtained by them? Or, like them, feel the great responsibility before God, and that is why «wish for greatness?»
Not long ago, during the pilgrimage of Pope John Paul II to Ukraine, when the liturgical prayer gathered almost one and a half million faithful in Lviv, our spirit was again uplifted on our everyday troubles, and our Church declared its readiness «to realize new tasks which flow from our Eastern tradition and church administration, and also from our honorable duty before the whole universal Church»:
For a better future in the new century we, bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, prepare the plan of pastoral work, the essence of which can be said in the following words: holiness of united people in to the pilgrimage to church communion, in order to carry out the will of Christ the Savior (Greeting of His Beatitude Lubomyr).
We, the nation, spiritually wounded by the godless totalitarianism and ruined by eternal divisions, have to become a holy and united people, to sincerely strive for church communion with all Christians. Therefore let’s hold our spirit high, in order not to lose this large and deserving goal from the field of our vision – «holiness of the unified nation.»
In the prospect of a single patriarchate
Here I create all new (Rev. 21:5).
Every Church fulfills its mission for a specific nation, in a certain historical time and geographical space. It is like Jesus Christ becoming a human child, «grew up with a wisdom, by the years and grace for God and for people» (Luke. 2:52), in order to reach the age of maturity, and the Church has the same – His Body – different stages of development and degrees of maturity. The different forms of the organizational structure in the Church we call eparchies, metropolitanates, and patriarchates. Among the last one with special honor we recognize five of the oldest patriarchies: Rome, Tsargorod (Constantinople), Alexandria, Antiochia, and Jerusalem (Pentarkhia), which were set by the Universal Councils in the first millennium of Christian history. During the second millennium the patriarchal dignity, first of all with the support of proper state authority, was obtained by Moscow, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Romanian Churches. The idea of the Patriarchate of the Kyivan Church was born at the beginning of 17th century in some other circumstances and had unique specificities since in ripened not from political motivations but from the vital necessities of church life. This idea, according to the prominent advocates – Metropolitans Joseph Veniamin (Ruts’kyj) and Petro (Mohyla) – consisted first of all to joint two branches of the once unified Ukrainian-Belarusan Churches, which as the result of disagreements about the Union of Brest found themselves under different jurisdictions: Roman and Tsargorod. The general patriarchate was to not only unite «Rus’ with Rus’» but also renew the unity between the Christian East and West, support the communion with the First and Second Rome, and help overcome the bitter consequences of the Church’s dissidence. Unfortunately, confessional prejudice of the leaders of that time of the large churches and fanaticism of the public did not allow for the reality of such «universal unity,» but its possibility to stimulate the ecumenical dialog and direct a church understanding and unification in Ukraine did not extinguish with time and did not get lost in the depth of the ages.
In the 20th century its ardent promoter become Metropolitan Andrey (Sheptytskyj) who, like his great predecessor Joseph Velyamyn (Ruts’kyj), was even ready to renounce from personal ambitions for the sake of unity of the Ukrainian Church and its unification with the Universal Church, although exactly the government of Ukrainian National Republic in 1918 offered him a patriarch’s title. Afterwards in his address to Orthodox colleagues in 1942 the servant of God wrote:
During the renewing of the Kyivan metropolitanate and in the future, if it is God’s will, the rise of the Kyivan see to the dignity of a patriarchate, we will be canonically inferior to that patriarchate, when he acknowledges the authority of the Universal Hierarch.
We, Greek Catholics, not only have no will to behave like an elder and to attack our brothers, but vice versa, we are ready even with own loss to submit to them, so that the complete union of two Ukrainian confessions would look so that rather it would be necessary to talk about the submission of Greek Catholics under the authority of Kyivan Patriarchate.
But also this time the plans of union and the patriarch’s completion of the hierarchical structure of the Ukrainian Church were brutally interrupted by the violence of the godless communist authority, which the attempts of revival of Ukrainian state system were not only strangled but also every religious act was cruelly persecuted and prohibited, and the UAOC and the UGCC were officially liquidated. However, right after the liberation from exile Metropolitan of Halychyna Joseph (Slipyj) addressed the question of acknowledgment of the Kyiv-Halych patriarchate before the Fathers of the Vatican Council II, considering this:
The Kyivan metropolitans, although they did not carry the patriarchal title, have managed the Church as though patriarchs, using patriarchal rights like other Eastern Churches. They were conscious that the patriarchy of the church is a visible sign of maturity and originality of the «sui juris» church and mighty factor in the church and people’s life.
In 1975 he started the process of creating a patriarchate of the UGCC, which continues today.
When in 1991 Ukraine became an independent state, its movement to the patriarchate was renewed by Ukrainian Orthodoxy. Between the Orthodox Churches there is no one agreement in regards to the method of achieving patriarchal status: one has chosen the way of proclamation by themselves (for example the UAOC in 1991), others prefer «the gift of autocephaly.» All the heirs of the historical Kyivan Church in Ukraine acknowledge that it is ready for patriarchal status. Practical embodiment of the patriarchal idea in both – the Greek Catholic and Orthodox – branches of the Kyivan Church testifies that this idea has a beyond confessional nature. In this case even the smallest success of one of the branches becomes a success for all because step by step it lays the path to the ultimate goal – a single communion patriarchate.
The last two decades showed that to obtain the recognition of the patriarchies proclaimed by the descendants of the Kyivan Church is not easily. What are the heirs of the Holy Volodymyr’s Baptism to do in this situation: to fall into despair? to lose motivation? to feed on the contempt for imaginary culprits?
Foremost this call also requires from us spiritual temperament, and evangelic humbleness. In particular, we, Greek Catholics, have to understand those for whom the proclaimed by our Church patriarchate seems to be a violation of ecclesial traditions sanctified by time, and tirelessly convince them that it the will of God for the past four centuries. At the same time we are called to fill the testament of Patriarch Joseph: «Never yield from the Patriarchate of your Suffering Church, you are alive, existing children!» This task foresees that we have to with understanding and insistence convince the world’s Christian community that the Kyiv-Halych patriarchate would become a «heart» for western and eastern «lights“ of one Body of the Church of Christ, or as Patriarch Joseph wrote “[unified] Kyivan Patriarchate has to be, and with definiteness would become the rescuer of church unity in the Universal Christ’s Church and rescuer of our Ukrainian, church, and national unity» (Testament). However, all of this would not be enough. Let’s listen again to the words of the author of the «Testament»:
Completion [separate national eastern] Churches with a patriarchal crown was always a fruit of a mature Christian consciousness in the God’s people, in all its components, in the consciousness of the clergy and pastors, including the consciousness of the laity, that spiritual herd, faithful to their pastoral ministering, played an outstanding role. Because only a mature consciousness of one’s church and national treasures, of cultural and historical acquisitions and values, one’s works and sacrifices, which entered the treasury of the whole Universal Christ’s Church, provided a firm basis for a Patriarchate!
In other words, our large our goals, in particular a patriarchate, we will only attain by the work of our spirit which has to be deserving of these large tasks. A patriarchate is for our Divine nation not the purpose in itself and not a politically motivated goal. In it are concentrated questions not only about the structure of the Church, but also the unity of God’s nation and its holiness. Therefore it is no wonder that in the epigraph to this section the well known quote from the New Testament was written: «Everything I create new.» To the «creation of new» we are induced by the features of our geopolitical and ecumenical situation, and mainly those spiritual calls which stand before us. Therefore our task is not only to build the «walls» of the patriarchate but also to fill them with the living fire of our faith – and then our patriarchal «dwelling» will be acknowledged in the world one which is blessed by God. Exactly this our bishops meant in their Pastoral message «About claiming the patriarchal mode of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church» (2004) to the faithful:
The patriarchal status of the Church is not only the decree of the Synod of Bishops, confirmed by the acknowledgment of the Holy Father. It is foremost the transformed life of a Divine nation which realizes new duties and responsibility. The task of whole church is to work tirelessly on such transfiguration.
«And be for me witnesses… to the edge of earth»
«My eyes saw your salvation, which you prepared before all the nations» (Luke 2:30–31).
As it was already said, our Church began the practical realization of its patriarchal aspirations on settlements, when the faithful in Ukraine were brutally deprived of the right to exist. This sacrificial mission which was undertaken by our compatriots in the free parts of the world causes a great sense of gratitude in our hearts and provokes us to look closer at this page of our Church’s history and the modern life of the Church.
Starting at the end of 19th century God in His Mission led our Church and people down completely new paths, sending them far from the native land. Since those days and until now millions of our compatriots left and are leaving their homes, willingly or not finding themselves far from Ukraine, practically on all the continents of our planet. By such strange God’s ways – mainly through the laity, and afterwards through the clergy – the Kyivan Church got to the nation and cultures, to those who never before and never hoped to work. Reacting first of all on the spiritual necessities of the Ukrainian workers and immigrants, already Metropolitan Silvester (Sembratovych) put forth a lot of effort to send Greek Catholic ministers to the faithful to the Church. By the efforts of Metropolitan Andrey, who twice personally visited the transatlantic settlements, our faithful has obtained also the hierarchs: Bishop Soter (Ortyns’kyj) in the United States of America (1907) and blessed holy martyr Mykyta (Budka) in Canada (1912). After World War II, when to the first and the second waves of workers emigration added a real avalanche of political wonderers, Greek Catholic eparchies in these states were lifted to the status of metropolitanates and the hierarchical structures of the UGCC are widespread in South America, Western Europe, and Australia.
The dynamic development of the Ukrainian Church’s life in its settlements had an important value considering the unfavorable conditions on native lands, especially when as a result of totalitarian violence the Greek Catholic Church was forbidden in Ukraine and in other states of the communist block. Invaluable is the help which was given by the Church from the diaspora to the Church doomed for silence on paternal land, becoming its voice in the free world. This year, celebrating the 20th anniversary of the legalization of our Church, we not once gratefully remembered how the faithful of the doomed Church listened on radio receivers the transmissions of Radio Vatican the native liturgical singing and warm words of spiritual support. We thankfully also noticed how much the Church abroad helped the emergence of the UGCC from the underground at the end of the 1980s and its contribution to rebuilding its structures during the subsequent two decades of religious freedom.
Since the situation of the Church strikingly changed, and in the message concerning the 60th anniversary of the pseudo-council of Lviv in 1946 the Synod of Bishops of the Church on the mother lands noted:
We hope that now the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, gradually developing the possibilities of pastoral ministering and consistently asserting the right to religious freedom on all the territories of the former Soviet Union, will be able renew the spiritual connection and serve properly those faithful who wish for it.
These words, turned foremost to the Greek Catholics in the countries of their newest settlements (especially with Russia and Kazakhstan), it is fully possible to consider also to the faithful of our Church on all human continents. Strengthening the spiritual connection and rebuilding closer mutual relations has to become the products of the obtained freedom and renewed sense of a unified Christian family.
However here once again appears the question: how to do it right? And here the experience of history and the example of our great predecessors can be used. In particular, servant of God Andrey (Sheptytskyj) not only initiating the conduction of general conferences of Greek Catholic bishops for the concordance of the major questions of the development of church life or perfection of canonical law and order, but also did not stop on behalf of «the bishops of the Church’s province of Halych» to call «first of all reverend bishops of our rite and our nation of Zakarpatska Rus’ (Trans-Carpathian Rus’), Yugoslavia, United States of America and Canada, Romania and Brazil,» and also «faithful of our eparchies, and consequently mobilized for almost entire world emigrants» to avoid «all that which divides and shares,» and to search «everywhere that which connects and unifies» (Joint message for the 950th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus’-Ukraine, 1938).
After liberation from exile Patriarch Joseph made great efforts to join «in dispersed truths,» convening conferences of Greek Catholic bishops, and afterwards Synods of the «sui juris» of the UGCC «in order to join this dissipated herd together, to unite it around the Head and Father, to give to this association exposure in our traditional rule, in the sacred Church’s Synods» (The message for the completion of 90 years of life).
For the Patriarch it was undoubtedly the indissoluble unity of the UGCC in the whole world:
In the unity rescue our Church from death and ruin! Let Your unity, the unity of all the Episcopate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, be a stimulus and inspiration for all those pastors, clergy and laity whose parents and great-grandfathers, were born by the mother church,the Kyivan Metropolitanate (Testament).
On his conviction, all the children of this Church, wherever their fates took them, are enjoying the spiritual treasures of a millennium of Kyivan Christianity. At the same time they are called to cherish their church’s historical tradition in the context of cultures of countries of their residency. Therefore a difficult task stands before them, properly presenting their tradition, to enrich the cultures of their new fatherlands. At the same time, organically synthesizing the valuable elements of the local cultures, the UGCC can open wider at the spiritual requests of others nations, to give answers on the basis of the Kyivan tradition.
Therefore, the approaches of the confessor of faith Patriarch Joseph to the understanding of the modern UGCC is indeed prophetic. From one side, it prevents surplus centralization, the result of which would be erection of the Church abroad to the Ukrainian enclaves, which stay in the religious-cultural ghetto, artificially isolated from valuable life in a new country and doomed to assimilation. From other side, the maintenance of unity of the Church in Ukraine with the hierarchy and communities of faithful beyond its borders allows for the sharing of treasures, and to ladle generously from its everlasting source and continue spiritually to attract to itself new generations of faithful and to open for oneself the global spiritual, cultural, and civilization prospects.
By the one uplifted spirit to the one God
I will make out of them one nation on my earth, on the mountains of Israel…
they will not be more than two nations, and will not be divided by more than two reigns…
They will be my nation, and Me – their God! (Ezek. 37, 21–23).
The last several years in Ukraine a wide discussion spread about the problem of the Kyivan Church, the union of present churches of old Kyivan tradition in one Kyivan Church. This discussion also reaches the Greek Catholic community and, as always at the comprehension of something unusual, there is considerable criticism. Some see the impracticable utopia in this suggestion and others see «betrayal.»
However, the high ideas are so named because they require a certain spiritual level. Because the grounded spirit is not able to reach the nearest horizons. Was it not called the «betrayal of Law,» the act of Christ when He entered the house of the tax collector Zacchaeus (Luke. 19:1–10)? And only those who were able to understand the grandeur of Christ’s mission could find no conflicting explanation of His unexpected steps. Today the same obstacles for the union of Ukrainian Churches are evident, and threats are undoubted. We have to see them and to take them into account. And to see only them is as though to give oneself to earthly gravitation, chaining one’s spirit to the grounded fence.
Is the idea of a single Kyivan Church new and still unknown? Let’s listen to the voices of our glorious predecessors.
Metropolitan Andrey (Sheptytskyj): Religious unity would be a mighty push toward the understanding of national unity. Therefore, I think that every Ukrainian patriot has to do everything that he can to realize such religious unity (Letter to all Very Reverend and Reverend Hierarchs in Ukraine and on Ukrainian Lands, December 1941).
Patriarch Joseph (Slipyj): The nearest to us in faith and blood are our Orthodox brothers. We are connected by the tradition of our native Christianity, common church and folk customs, common culture of two millennia! We are joined by the same struggle for originality of our native Church, for its Plenitude, the visible sign which will be the single Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Church! (Testament).
Hearing these voices from the past and never forgetting about these testaments, our Church during the last period of time has developed a number of documents in which step by step were formulated and specified the current understanding of our historical task – «the joining of Rus’ with Rus’.»
Thus, already in a first document from this series – «Conception of the ecumenical position of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church» – was formed the basic positions which served as the departure points in our movement forward. Considering the theme which we discuss, we will point, in particular, to such positions:
The Church’s unity with the Universal Hierarch became one of the fundamental principles of the identity of the UGCC and that is why further ecumenical steps can not enhance the importance of this unity and must be rebuilt with its consideration (17).
The UGCC came out from the principle that all three Churches [UOC, UOC of KP and UAOC] have a common historical legacy of the Kyivan Church (32).
The UGCC, however, does not deem the current divisions in Orthodoxy in Ukraine desirable or legitimate. On the contrary, the UGCC will welcome any steps to all-Orthodox reconciliation in Ukraine and the joining of present branches of Orthodoxy into one Orthodox Church, considering that reconciliation and joining will become important factors for the spiritual revival of Ukraine (33).
The next important milestone has become the Message on the occasion of returning of the See of head of the UGCC to Kyiv «One God’s nation on the edge of the Kyivan mountains» (2004). Here the above mentioned position has found not only confirmation but also logical conceptual continuation: Every confessional branch of the Kyivan Church, historically close to the one of the Christian centers, has not lost its blessed by time confessional connections. Today it is possible to convincingly assert that the demand to break those relations, which was so often heard in the history of Ukraine, has led to its insolvency. As it was already mentioned above, the replacement of the jurisdiction of subordination on the communion’s sisterhood would enable not only to save the valuable aspects of former relations but also enrich the general treasury of the Kyivan Church (II.2).
It is evident that when giving such unexpected, and for some revolutionary, suggestions, the motivations and foreseen pre-conditions will need clarification. In this document it is done:
First of all, the current characteristics of the Church’s situation need to be treated no as violations of a single possible interchurch order, but as processes determined by the natural development of Ukrainian Churches. Secondly, the reliable Christian peace in Ukraine – a pre-condition of the subsequent ecumenical dialog – can only be guaranteed with the consideration of interests of each interested party… Thirdly, in place of the monopolistic attempt to solve the problem of a unified national church in Ukraine for the benefit of one of the denominations has to be the common effort of the whole Christian community. The civilized decision of the fate of the Kyivan Church can become the real «laboratory of ecumenism» (John Paul II), deprived of categoricalness and full of the spirit of cooperation and partnership. Harmonious, exclusive forms of community of the Kyivan Church (for example in the form of a unified Patriarchate – through the historical vision of Ukrainians from the 17th century) due to an unique communion openness could become a chance for the centers of Christianity to meet on terrain to finally find the new ecumenical models of understanding… (II.4).
This document did not stay unnoticed in Ukraine, and not for the first time in recent times were there certain official and not official reviews from Orthodoxy. It became clear that the UGCC’s «inclusive» model of the Kyivan Church needs limitations especially in ecclesiastical and theological terms. It was done in 2008 in the Address to the Heads of Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, especially through the important theological foundation of the Greek Catholic understanding of the unified national Ukrainian (Kyivan) church.
The unified national Ukrainian church will rise with the communion of the Churches of the Kyivan tradition, which considers itself and each other to be the heiresses of Holy Volodymyr’s Baptism. Each of the Churches is hypostatic-original in its own heading and holy-source, every one is equal in the performing of the Mystery of Salvation (2).
Initiatives of the UGCC in relation to the discussion of ways of reviving the Kyivan Church stimulate inner Orthodox processes, but they have not just one reason. Searching for ways to revive the Kyivan Church enveloped all its present branches, which is undoubtedly, the important «sign of the time.» Meanwhile, the suggestions of Ukrainian Orthodoxy are limited to only creating a single national Ukrainian Orthodox Church. To the suggestion of the UGCC which foresees the emergence from narrow confessional scopes, the Ukrainian Orthodox community stands carefully for they see the old model of «unionism.» This testify that a serious necessity to understand the difference between «unionism» as a confessional subject and the «unionism» as confessional subordination and communion unity of equals in the dignity of the Churches.
However, certain doubts appear from the both sides: if the Orthodox interpret any unity with the Greek Catholics as a retreat from Orthodoxy, the Greek and Roman Catholics will become afraid that this beyond-confessional model can jeopardize the unity of Greek Catholics with the Bishop of Rome. Answers for these anxieties must be given ourselves through the examination of our conscience.
It would be useful to us, Greek Catholics, to collate the position with the vision of our predecessors. Metropolitan Andrey (Sheptytskyj): I do not see a contrast between the Catholics and the Orthodox… I only want to say that love for Catholics or the Orthodox works in the direction of unification, and all that which is on both sides hatred, shortage of love… works for the division (Closing speech at Union Week in Brussels, 1925).
It is possible to talk about the different methods of understanding without pouring into one confession. It is possible to think about the connection of the Orthodox belief with the Greek Catholic one… I wanted for adherents of different religious confessions to come together, preserve, obviously, their authenticity (Letter to the Ukrainian Orthodox intelligentsia, 1942).
Patriarch Joseph (Slipyj): the most numerous churches that we have are the Orthodox and Catholic, and, impartially speaking, there is no substantial dogmatic difference between us, as it is shown through theological studies and by history. Truthfully, the division and separation are supported only from outside, from those who knows that are weakening the Ukrainian Nation and Church… Let’s be ourselves! Let’s look at our spiritual good, at the salvation of our souls – and then there will be unity between us, first in the area of the church, and then on the national and state levels! (Message «About joining in Christ,» Rome, on June 3, 1976).
Consequently, in this case the present unifying visions and efforts, which come into the environment of our Church, do not conflict with the traditional self-comprehension of the Church, which was produced during the previous ages. We do not create some new totalitarian «empire» or confessional «civilization» which would play the role of the Fourth Rome. The feature of the UGCC’s proposed vision of the Kyivan Church is the aspiration to finally live in the peace with the neighbours.
Instead of monopolistic domain of the Christian Ukraine, which was characteristic of past epochs, we propose the communion’s unity of today’s still divided Kyivan Church. However, this unity, in order to bring peace and understanding to Ukraine has to grow from within, in the bosom of every branch of the Kyivan Church. This process began in 1989 and became a determining landmark in the life of both the Greek Catholic and Orthodox communities in Ukraine. This way will not be simple, it will experience oscillation and maybe retreats, but, as our history testifies, it is indivertible because it embraces sacrifice and martyrdom, strength of spirit and the height of thoughts, fire of faith and sincerity of prayer.
Let the Lord’s Benediction be on you!
In the name of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Issued in Kyiv, at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on December 8, 2009
17.02.2010, 2456 просмотров.