KIEV, Ukraine, AUG. 22, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The transfer of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church from Lviv to Kiev, criticized by the Orthodox, is due to pastoral needs and isn’t meant to offend anyone, says Cardinal Lubomyr Husar.
The Church’s headquarters was moved Sunday. That day, Cardinal Husar celebrated the Divine Liturgy in a church under construction in the Ukrainian capital, and made an appeal for unity among Christians, Catholics and Orthodox.
Some 1,000 Orthodox, faithful to the Moscow Patriarchate, protested nearby about the headquarters transfer. The police ensured that there was no violence between them and Catholics.
Some protesters shouted through megaphones in English: “Husar, go home,” and “Uniates, out of here.” “Uniate” is the term, often used pejoratively, with which the Orthodox identify Eastern-rite Catholics.
A poster warned President Viktor Yushchenko not to “sell our people; we are Orthodox, we do not want Uniates on our soil.”
The Ukrainian presidency revealed today that Yushchenko considers the headquarters move an “internal affair” of the Greek-Catholic Church.
Hoping for good will
At a press conference in Lviv on Aug. 17, Cardinal Husar said that the negative reaction to the headquarters transfer challenges believers to consider the problem of the division of Churches in Ukraine.
He expressed the hope that, with the good will of all sides, these events will initiate further steps toward restoration of the original unity.
The transfer took place on the basis of the decision of Cardinal Husar, as leader of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and in accordance with Canon 57 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.
This was confirmed by the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, which took place in Kiev last Oct. 5-12, and was blessed by Pope John Paul II.
Since Sunday the title of the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has been changed from “major archbishop of Lviv” to “major archbishop of Kiev and Halych.”
Cardinal Husar emphasized several times that the transfer of the see is not directed against anybody, but is driven by the objective needs and the present state of development of the Church.
Appeal to Pope
He also said that it is hard to understand the reasons for such a negative reaction by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.
Asked if the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church’s reaction to the accusations is not too mild, the cardinal replied: “And what should the attitude of a Christian be?”
Metropolitan Vladimir of Kiev and All Ukraine sent an open letter to Benedict XVI in Rome, made public today by the Moscow Patriarchate, in which he requests that “the decree signed by your predecessor” authorizing this change of see, be reversed.
The Orthodox representative argued that, as a German, Benedict XVI might understand the Ukrainian situation better than the Polish-born John Paul II.
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church belongs to the group of Churches of the Byzantine rite which acknowledge the spiritual authority and jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome.
The Ukrainian Church played an important role in the preservation of the self-identity of Ukrainians in the period of Austrian and Polish rule on the territory of western Ukraine, during the 17th to 20th centuries.
5.5 million faithful
In 1945 Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin launched a campaign to destroy the Ukrainian Church and Greek-Catholic priests had to go underground. The Church was again legalized on Dec. 1, 1989.
According to the records of Ukraine’s National Committee on Religious Matters, on Jan. 1, 2004, the Ukrainian Church numbered more than 5.5 million faithful. It had 3,328 parishes, 92 monasteries, 2,051 priests and 2,721 churches.
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has representatives in Russia, the Baltic countries, Western Europe, North and South America, and Australia.