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Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, spoke with the Register.
BY EDWARD PENTINREGISTER CORRESPONDENT
His Beatitude Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the major archbishop
of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, made a historic trip to Rome recently
as Ukraine’s bishops made their first ad limina visit to the Pope in 70 years.
Register correspondent Edward Pentin recently spoke with
Cardinal Husar about his concerns for Ukrainian Catholics and about his close
ties with the United States.
What concerns did you
raise with the Pope and Vatican officials on your ad limina visit?
The primary purpose, after so many years of absence, was not
only I personally but the entire group wished to thank the Holy Father in
person, and his predecessors and collaborators, for what the Church of Rome has
done for our Church, especially in the period of our silence — forced silence.
Then, the priorities that interest us the most are to
prepare clergy and to prepare laypeople for the new life. During the time of
persecution, our Church survived through the grace of God. But we have to be
very conscious that, notwithstanding the difficulties, it was in a certain
sense easier because things were pretty much black-and-white.
Now that we have been liberated and now face the world that
does not persecute us directly, we have to find the inner force, and the inner
conviction to live as members of Christ’s church.
There have been many people who have, thanks be to God,
remained faithful in the sense that their faith has not faded. But they had difficulty
being Christians from Monday to Saturday, having been educated in communist
In the practical life, perhaps I can illustrate the
difficulty in this way. Anyone who follows the situation in Ukraine today is
conscious that there are many, many disorders in political, economic, social
and cultural life. And many people think: “How come? What has happened?”
The answer is actually rather simple. I would say: Communism
tried to do away with God, Christian morality. They didn’t completely succeed.
But they have wounded people deeply and people today, even
when they know what they should do — many, however, do not — but even those who
do know, don’t find it easy to live fully according to the moral precepts of
In recent years, the
Russian Orthodox Church has accused Catholics of proselytizing after the fall
of communism. What is the current situation regarding Catholic-Orthodox
relations in Ukraine?
In the Ukraine, we don’t have this accusation as frequently
expressed as it is in, for example, Russia. But we do not have any formal
dialogue or any formal contacts.
However, we do have contacts in a different way, meaning we
have in Ukraine an old Ukrainian council of churches and religious
organizations, which is composed of Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants and even
Muslims and Jews. There are 19 members representing numerous traditional
religious bodies and we collaborate. We discuss things together; we react to
certain realities together.
You see, our interconfessional situation is very peculiar,
and even though we don’t try to hide our differences, somehow we manage to go
forward, not always 100% peacefully, but to a great extent peacefully and
Maybe that’s the peculiarity of our situation in Ukraine,
even though, as I mentioned at the beginning, in certain respects we have no
special, very formal relations.
A couple of years ago,
the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church had a dispute with the Orthodox when you
decided to move your patriarchate to Kiev. Has this dispute now been resolved?
The problem is this: Returning to Kiev after 200 years was
seen by some Orthodox as aggression on what they consider canonical territory.
But maybe I could relate a concrete example: A few days after the formal
transfer, we celebrated Independence Day on Aug. 24. And as I was walking down
the street, two elderly ladies came up, recognized me, maybe from television or
whatever, and said: “We are teachers by profession, we are Orthodox, and we
welcome you in Kiev.”
That was a very touching moment for me. It was completely
unsolicited, so spontaneous and natural, and I think the majority of the
population has reacted this way. There have been certain groups, there’s been
formal but not very strong opposition in the sense that today, in our daily
lives, it doesn’t present any real problem.
We feel very at home and very welcome.
What were the
highlights of studying at The Catholic University of America? What did you
learn from that formative time in the United States?
In my own personal life these were very happy moments and I
think back with joy.
I would like to say that looking back today, I am very
grateful to the United States because I came to the U.S. as a displaced person,
as we were known, that is persons who had no place to go because of the Second
The United States welcomed us, and gave us the opportunity
to study, work and develop. Especially when I look back into my own life I am
very, very grateful for that, as a person but also for my own family and all
those who have found a home in the United States and for whom the U.S. has been
open to receive and to give the possibility of a normal life.
Edward Pentin writes from Rome.