Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
July 2, 2001
John Paul beatifies Ukrainian martyrs
1.2 Million people pray in the mud at climax of papal visit
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
LVIV, UKRAINE — Pope John Paul beatified 27 martyrs from Ukraine's Eastern Catholic churches, including the first Ukrainian Catholic bishop in Canada, at a June 27 Divine Liturgy.
The liturgy was attended by many of the martyrs' parishioners, widows, children, grandchildren and students.
The martyrs of the Ukrainian and Ruthenian Catholic churches died between 1935 and 1973, the victims of Nazi terror and the systematic Soviet repression of the Eastern Catholic churches.
The pope also beatified Sister Josaphata Hordashevska, founder of the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate.
Also among those beatified was Bishop Mykyta Budka, who was head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada from 1912 to 1927. He died in a Soviet prison camp in 1949.
Hundreds of the estimated 1.2 million people at the June 27 liturgy had known personally one of the martyred bishops, priests, religious or laity. Several of the priests were married and left behind their wives and children.
The pope quoted the late Lviv Cardinal Josef Slipyj's description of Ukraine under the communists as a land covered "with mountains of corpses and rivers of blood."
The beatified martyrs, he said, are representatives of "a multitude of anonymous heroes - men and women, husbands and wives, priests and consecrated men and women, young people and old - who in the course of the 20th century, 'the century of martyrdom,' underwent persecution, violence and death rather than renounce their faith."
Most of the martyrs died after the Russians took over Western Ukraine at the end of the Second World War and outlawed the Eastern Catholic Church in 1946.
One of the martyrs, Father Emilian Kovch, died in the ovens of the Nazis' Majdanek concentration camp in Poland in 1944 after being arrested for helping Jews flee Ukraine.
Pope John Paul told the crowd he, too, had witnessed the suffering of the church under the Nazis and the Soviets firsthand.
His priesthood, he said, "even at its beginning, was in some way marked by the great sacrifice of countless men and women of my generation."
"Their memory must not be lost, for it is a blessing," he said.
Father Kost Panas, who was ordained in 1982 when the Church was still illegal, said: "These martyrs were examples for us. They kept us strong. They were persecuted only because they wanted to keep their faith."
Yustyna Kasian, one of the thousands of people standing in the mud at the liturgy, said the beatifications are "a great event for the whole Church because they will pray for us and we will pray for them. Because of their prayers, our Church will blossom, so this is a gift for the future.''
As the crowd waited for the pope, Father Borys Gudziak, rector of the Lviv Theological Academy, asked them if they were ready to follow the example of the martyrs.
"Let us say it loud so that all humanity can hear, so they can hear us in Lviv, in Kiev . . . in Moscow, in Beijing. Are you ready?" he asked.
The crowd shouted, "Yes."
In his homily, Pope John Paul said the fact that Christians from other churches in Ukraine also died for their faith should be a motive for working for Christian unity.
"This is the ecumenism of the martyrs," he said.
"The only way to clear the path" toward unity, he said, "is to forget the past, ask forgiveness of one another and forgive one another for the wounds inflicted and received, and unreservedly trust the renewing action of the Holy Spirit."
Preparing the crowd for the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Lviv said that although June 27 was a date to celebrate the fidelity of Ukraine's Eastern Catholics, it also was a day to acknowledge "moments of darkness and spiritual tragedy."
Without offering specific examples, he said there had been times in the past when members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church "consciously and voluntarily did evil things to their neighbours."
In the name of the Church, he said, "I wish to ask forgiveness from the Lord, the creator and father of us all, and also from those whom we, sons and daughters of this church, may have wronged in any way."
"So that the horrible past may not weigh down upon us and poison our life, for our part with all our hearts we forgive those who in any way have wronged us," he said.
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