Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 20, 2006
Patriarch designation in the offering?
Ukrainian Catholics are encouraged about Vatican discussions to recognize the head of their church as a patriarch
By GLEN ARGAN
Could you tell me where the cardinal is going?" the reporter asked the young man in clerical garb in the sacristy of Sts. Vladimir and Olga Cathedral.
"You mean the patriarch," the man quickly replied.
Ukrainian Catholics would like to see the head of their Church - Cardinal Lubomyr Husar - recognized as a patriarch.
The Roman Catholic Church already has several patriarchates - Jerusalem, Rome (the pope), Lisbon, Venice and the East Indies. Ukrainian Catholics would dearly love to see Kiev added to that list as a recognition of the maturity of their Church.
Forty years ago when the discussion began, Husar told reporters Feb. 10, it would not get a serious hearing at the Vatican. But today, the notion is freely discussed from the pope on down.
"There has been a certain inner development within the Church - a recognition that this is not only and exclusively (an issue) with the Ukrainian Catholic Church," the cardinal, er, patriarch said. It should affect all the Eastern Catholic churches in due time.
Recognition of the Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate is "inevitable," says Husar, 72, who may well retire before such recognition is granted. "It is a step that cannot be avoided."
Not only would it be a recognition for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but it would also be a signal to Eastern Orthodox churches that the Vatican treats Eastern traditions "with utmost seriousness."
Husar would not speculate on when the Ukrainians might be granted their patriarchate. "But ultimately, it could happen anytime."
Last August, the Ukrainian Catholic Church moved the seat of its major archdiocese (Husar's) from Lviv in western Ukraine to Kiev, the nation's capital.
Although that move is "not necessarily intimately connected" with the quest for a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate, "the two things could be connected," said Husar.
The move, strongly opposed by the Russian Orthodox Church, was a matter of returning the see to the capital where the Church originated 1,000 years ago.
"This gives a certain added respect to the major archbishopric."
Hundreds of Orthodox and members of some political groups protested an Aug. 21 liturgical celebration marking the move of the see. But representatives of three other Orthodox churches sent representatives to the liturgy.
At the time and despite the protests, Husar predicted moving the Ukrainian Catholic headquarters would improve ecumenical relations.
Now, he said that is exactly what is happening. As head of the Church, he is much better able to take part in meetings with other Church leaders. There has been good cooperation with those churches in Christian education and other practical matters.
At the end of January, 19 churches and religious communities (including Jewish and Muslim) agreed to establish a common secretariat as well as a social commission to represent them before government authorities, he said.
And even relations with the Russian Orthodox are not as bad as it might seem. While the Russian Orthodox patriarch has written to the pope and taken other official steps to condemn the Ukrainian Catholic move to Kiev, "on a practical level there is very good cooperation" between Ukrainian Catholics and Russian Orthodox, he said.
Much of the Russian Orthodox objection to the growing recognition of the Ukrainian Catholic Church comes from a fear of proselytism.
"Our presence is very frequently presented as an aggression - that we would by force or by trickery like to lead Orthodox to become Catholics."
Husar said this claim is a psychological "defence mechanism." It is an attempt to make the Catholics look bad and an attempt "to justify a lack of one's own initiative."
Whenever the Ukrainian Catholics have asked for evidence of specific instances of proselytism, "usually our questions have gone unanswered," he said.
Indeed, far from promoting antagonism with the Orthodox, Husar has been a leading voice for ecumenical cooperation.
At the World Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October, Husar asked Pope Benedict XVI to consider calling a "truly ecumenical" synod of bishops with the full participation of Orthodox churches.
The main item he would like to see on the agenda for such a synod would be sharing of the Eucharist between Catholic and Orthodox.