Condolences for Cardinal Lubachivsky

Pope Praises Ukrainian Leader´s Profound Spirituality

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 15, 2000 ( Following the death of Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky, John Paul II sent a telegram to Ukrainian Catholics, expressing his condolences and «sincere admiration» for the deceased archbishop´s «profound spirituality.»

Cardinal Lubachivsky, the head of Ukraine´s Greek Catholics who returned to his homeland in 1991 after 53 years of exile, died Thursday in Kiev. He was 86.

The cardinal was major archbishop of Lviv, one of the principal cities of Ukraine, a country of Orthodox majority, which John Paul II will visit next June.

Cardinal Lubachivsky was spiritual leader to over 5 million Ukrainian Catholics of the Byzantine rite in their own homeland, and to 2 million faithful spread around the world. He guided the rebirth of this Catholic community, after it was recognized by Mikhail Gorbachev at the time of perestroika.

John Paul II asked for news of the elderly Cardinal on Dec. 1, when bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church were on pilgrimage in Rome, and conveyed his «special greetings» through them to the cardinal, who was unable to travel.

During the «long Communist winter,» an expression used by the Pope in the telegram, Lubachivsky had to live in exile in the United States and Rome, dedicating himself to teaching and pastoral ministry among his countrymen of the diaspora.

John Paul II appointed him archbishop of Philadelphia of the Ukrainians in September 1979. In 1984 he replaced Cardinal Josyf Slipyi in Lviv, symbol of Ukrainian Catholic resistance at the time of Communist persecution. The Pope created him cardinal a year later.

The Bishop of Rome concluded his message to Ukrainian Catholics thanking God for «the gift of this generous pastor who honored the Greek-Catholic Church with his life and death.»

There are now 141 members in the College of Cardinals, 97 of whom are electors who could vote in a conclave, and 44 non-electors who are 80 years of age or older.

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