Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 24, 2003
Ukrainians pursue mediator role
Papal candidate seeks reunion between East, West
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, is more amused than embarrassed that he is considered a dark horse candidate to become the next pope.
He rolls his eyes upwards as he is introduced as such to an audience at Saint Paul University (SPU) that includes Archbishop Luigi Ventura, the apostolic nuncio to Canada; Bishop Cornelius Pasichny, Ukrainian Eparchial Bishop of Toronto and Eastern Canada; and Archbishop Marcel Gervais, the university's chancellor and Archbishop of Ottawa.
An American citizen who speaks fluent English, Husar, 70, is on a 19-day Canadian tour that takes him to Winnipeg, Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal and Ottawa for meetings, retreats, Masses and speaking engagements.
He left for the United Kingdom Feb. 23.
Husar, the major Archbishop of Lviv, was appointed as a cardinal only two years ago in a move viewed as an attempt by Pope John Paul to support Catholic churches in predominantly Eastern Orthodox countries where, Husar admits, ecumenism is at a virtual standstill.
"Some Orthodox brethren say we should not exist at all," he told his audience at SPU Feb. 12. The problem is "East (Orthodox Church) does not know the West (Latin Church) and the West does not know East," he said.
"It's a tragic fact, but a reality," said Husar. "We have to begin to realize this general frustration in our ecumenical community because we are not getting anywhere."
Because the Ukrainian Catholic Church is loyal to Rome yet follows the Eastern rite, Husar believes it has an important role to play as mediator between the two divides.
Mediate the two divides
"We see ourselves at a geographic point where the two traditions meet," he said in a CCN interview at the offices of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Feb. 13. "It is expected of us to be mediators because we touch both realities."
Many in the Ukrainian Catholic Church feel their mission is to be "a connecting element that helps the two traditions to live respecting one another, profiting from one another and, of course living in unity," he said.
One of the obstacles to a dialogue between West and East involving the Ukrainian Catholic Church, however, is that it isn't a patriarchy.
"A patriarchate is the normal way of doing Church business in the eastern tradition," Husar said.
"It is something like a country that has everything that it needs, but in order to function normally it needs the recognition of other countries as an independent state."
He has been lobbying Rome to make his Church a patriarchate for some time and he said the pope understands the situation.
"He is quite interested in doing what the ecumenical council (Vatican II) put on him," he said.
The council has said that "whenever the need arises and the situation requires it, the traditional form should be recognized and established," he said.
"Being a patriarchate doesn't mean prestige, but simply living in a very normal situation and being able to contact others at their own level," the cardinal said.
"It is expected of us to be mediators because we touch both realities."
- Cardinal Lubomyr Husar
The Vatican, however, fears that elevating the Church to a patriarchate would increase tensions in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
Husar is not expecting a commitment to a patriarchate by Rome in the immediate future.
"It's a question of growth, a process," he said.
"Within the last 40 years there has been certain maturation of thought and intention among our own people, which maybe was not present 300 years ago when there was also talk of being a patriarchate," he said.
And besides, "We cannot set a date for the holy father," he said.
Husar received most of his education in the United States although he was born in Lviv, Ukraine. He attended the Catholic University of America and earned his doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Urbanian University in Rome.
He was a teacher at St. Basil's College Seminary in Stamford, Conn., from 1958 to 1969, and was ordained as a bishop in 1977.
Husar was also vicar general for Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, his predecessor as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Dark horse candidate
In his recent book, Conclave: The Politics, Personalities and Process of the Next Papal Election, John Allen Jr., Vatican correspondent for the U.S. based National Catholic Reporter, referred to Husar as his "dark horse" candidate to be the next pope.
"Husar is bright, modest, pastoral, and as a patriarch of one of the 21 Eastern rite Catholic churches, he feels the case for collegiality and inculturation in his bones," Allen wrote in a later column.
"He is also one of the most genuinely Christian men I've ever met."