Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
August 20, 2001
Papal visit strengthened ties
Huculak sees stronger relationships between Rome, Ukrainian Catholics
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — For Bishop Lawrence Huculak of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton, the papal visit to Ukraine meant re-strengthening of ties on different levels.
The papal gesture re-strengthened Rome's relationship with the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
"In Edmonton it means a re-strengthening of the ties that we have as an eparchy with the mother Church in Ukraine," the 50-year old bishop told the WCR.
"We have many differences we know that, our history, our way of thinking and lifestyle, but (the visit) has shown that we have so many things in common."
Local Ukrainian Catholic churches all over the world form one synod. Thus, even those who came from Canada, the U.S. and other parts of the world were not considered guests but hosts.
From Huculak's point of view the Holy Father's visit gave them the opportunity to show that the Ukrainian Catholic Church has an ancient history. The beatification of the Ukrainian martyrs testified that this Church suffered and shed blood for the faith.
"It made us feel that we are a Church of substance," Huculak said.
"Our Church is a major Church, a very significant one often ignored by the Orthodox world and perhaps not understood very well by the Roman Catholic world," the soft-spoken Huculak said.
Huculak and one sister from Mundare, whose order's foundress was beatified, were the only Alberta Catholics who went to Ukraine.
"I think the people here in North America were not sure. Is this really going to happen and how?" the bishop observed.
In March, the WCR reported that Meets Travel, a Ukraine-oriented travel agency was organizing a group of pilgrims.
However, Luba Kowalchyk, manager of Meets Travel, said the trip was cancelled because it was difficult to get confirmation for their bookings.
Huculak himself admitted he had a lot of anticipation and concerns.
"What would happen? (The pope) is not a healthy man, would he make this trip? Would there be demonstrations? Would there be ugly scenes?"
The bishop's experience proved his concerns wrong.
The pope's visit was a success. He was well received in Ukraine.
"He showed a very good knowledge of the Church history in Ukraine and the amount of people who suffered in the last 100 years," observed Huculak.
"He quoted the national poet, the national literary figures and his diction of Ukrainian was so much better than the president's."
The warnings from the Orthodox Church officials triggered interest from the locals. They did not understand what the Orthodox Church was concerned about. As a visiting head of the Vatican State the government of Ukraine provided tight security for the pope.
Ukrainians were impressed with the pope, who knew so much about Ukraine, and so they asked: "Who is this old man that they are afraid of?"
In Kiev, the pope emphasized that the city is the cradle of Christianity for the Eastern Church.
"The people in Kiev were reserved and sort of did not know what to make of this," Huculak said.
In Lviv the pope held a day for youth. He told the young people Ukraine needs them and urged them not to leave the country.
"That was a much needed statement," said Huculak.
The main message of the pope's visit was unity. Some people thought that he was referring to the unity of the East and the West. It can be viewed that way. But the pope specifically mentioned unity of the Polish and Ukrainian people, whose history is combined and unity between the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Roman Catholics, which needs to continue to develop.
"I think it will take time before the country and the Church in Ukraine are able to digest the significance of the pope's visit," said Huculak.
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