Cardinal Lubomyr Husar

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar

November 3, 2014
CINDY WOODEN
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

KYIV, UKRAINE – The task of the Catholic Church is not only to teach people how to pray, but how to live authentically Christian lives, two leaders of the Ukrainian Catholic Church said.

The Church's ministers also have an obligation to support and minister to their followers in the midst of strife and even danger, said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, and 81-year-old Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the retired head of the Church.

That belief led the two leaders and fellow priests to Kiev's Independence Square – the Maidan – from November 2013 to February 2014 in long-term protest against the government of former President Viktor Yanukovych.

At one point in February, government forces opened fire on the protesters, killing more than 100 people.

Yanukovych, the pro-Russia president, was forced to flee Ukraine in February in the midst of public outrage.

Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded, and then annexed, Crimea. Pro-Russian separatists, widely thought to be working with the Russian Army, then tried to take over the far eastern regions of Ukraine. Although a ceasefire was signed in mid-September, the fighting and killing continue.

NEW GENERATION

Shevchuk said what happened at Maidan in February – a protest originally led by university students and other young people – showed "we already have a new generation of free people.

"Twenty-three years ago, we received an external freedom," he said. "That freedom was only a chance, only a possibility. But millions of Ukrainians, through these last 23 years, were going through a process of inner liberation. It is not easy to be a free man or a free woman."

The protests, he said, proved there really is a free Ukraine, a nation of citizens ready to take responsibility for their future, which was something that did not exist even 10 years ago.

"That free Ukraine was manifested in such a beautiful and strong way. Nobody would give up their freedom anymore."

Shevchuk said Catholic leaders in Ukraine did not take sides in the parliamentary elections, but instead preach values and moral law so the people are able to build a new society.

Meeting reporters Oct. 20 in a Kyiv apartment, Husar said the Soviet Union's anti-religious propaganda left scars including an expectation that government officials would be corrupt.

PRAYER, VIRTUE

Since the re-legalization in 1989 of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and Ukraine's independence in 1991, Husar said, "the churches in Ukraine have been very active in trying to help people to be believers, practising Christians."

Like the Catholic Church in Poland in the 1980s, the churches of Ukraine need "to preach social virtues very insistently," teaching people to pray, but also how to be practising Christians at home and in their relations with the nation.

For the cardinal, Maidan marked "a great turn in our history." The Ukrainian people realized their government had an obligation to respond to their needs and wishes and not steal from them.