Lviv Cardinal Defends Papal Trip

In Interview With Russian Newspaper

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MOSCOW, JUNE 19, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFIDES).- For the first time, a popular Russian daily, Nezavisimaja Gazeta (Independent Gazette), on June 14 published a one-page interview with the archbishop major of the Greek-Catholics of Lviv, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar.

The interview, entitled «The Byzantine Tradition and the Roman Pontiff,» was held after the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow publicly expressed its opposition to the upcoming papal trip to Ukraine.

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics, who obey the Pope but have the same liturgy and traditions as the Orthodox, explained that the future of Christian unity does not mean the «reunion» of all Orthodox under Rome, but the full realization of «true orthodoxy.»

Cardinal Husar clarified that this does not mean confessional antagonisms but full unity, which cannot be attained without agreement and unity with Rome.

This «real orthodoxy,» the cardinal explained, implies cultural integrity, which must preserve the Byzantine legacy of the areas once known as Kievan Rus. Union with Rome will not do away with Orthodoxy´s tradition, but should exalt it, as the Greek-Catholics do, he said.

In fact, Catholics of the Oriental Churches have great autonomy from Rome. In many cases, such as in Ukraine and Romania, there are married priests, as is the case with the Orthodox. At the same time, they preserve all the richness of the Byzantine liturgy. Their archbishops are elected by the Holy Synod. The Pope is limited to recognizing these appointments so that they can become part of the universal Catholic Church.

The main reason why Orthodox currents do not welcome the Pope in Ukraine is because of the rebirth of Greek-Catholic communities, following decades of Communist persecution. Today they number close to 5 million in Ukraine; the Moscow Patriarchate sees this as Rome´s «invasion» of Orthodox lands.

Cardinal Husar attributes a «more symbolic» and less «juridical value to the Roman Pope´s role in relation to the Oriental Churches. The Pontiff´s mission is one of communion, not submission, he stressed.

«If there was to be only one Church of Christ in Ukraine, founded by saintly Prince Vladimir, and in relation with the Roman Pontiff, we would like to be part of that Church,» the Greek-Catholic leader said.

«We have always thought that union must be understood in the sense that the Pope acts in the Church as the Apostle Peter,» the cardinal added. «He has authority to unite all, not to command over all. His power is not of government but of unity.»

In order to explain his position, the cardinal referred to the confrontations within the Orthodox Church, between the Moscow Patriarchate and the ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

«No one is able to make these two Churches agree,» he said. «However, the Pope has the authority to pacify them again.»

Cardinal Husar concluded: «Disunited Christians are not true Christians.»

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