Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Canada, addressed the Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops meeting in synod this month in Kiev, Ukraine, telling them the West has much to learn from their witness.
The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) addressed the synod a week ago, as the Latin Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Archbishop Smith spoke of the relationship between the Latin and Eastern Catholic bishops in Canada, and of the 2012 visit by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the sui juris Ukrainian Catholic Church, who addressed the 2012 Plenary Assembly of the CCCB.
The 2013 synod of Ukrainian Catholic bishops is being held during celebrations marking the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of the people of Kyivan Rus’, an event for which Pope Francis sent a message.
"Among the many gifts you offer us," Archbishop Smith told his brother bishops, "I want to mention in particular your witness of fidelity and resilience. As I visit this country and read again of its history, I am both edified and humbled by the resilience of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the face of great persecution and suffering."
The Canadian prelate added: "From your heroic example, we in the West can draw encouragement and inspiration. While secularization there steadily fashions an environment intolerant of the Gospel, you remind us of the beauty of fidelity and its power to transform. In this way you encourage us to be steadfast, regardless of the consequences, confident that God works mysteriously through his faithful ones to turn all to the good."
Archbishop Smith reflected that the "central place accorded by the Ukrainian tradition to the Divine Liturgy" enables the faithful of that rite to apprehend the "beauty of truth" and adhere to it.
"God who is Truth meets us in the Liturgy, where he draws us into the mystery of His love, and enables us to share even now in his Triune life. Encounter with this mystery in the Liturgy engenders fidelity to the divine love, and impels us by that same caritas toward our brothers and sisters, even if our presence and message is unwelcome," he said.
The archbishop also noted that the Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine tradition emphasizes mercy, "which is Truth's necessary companion."
"Here again we find a lesson vital for our times," he stated. "Our day is rather harsh and unforgiving toward human frailty, an attitude that, sadly, characterizes the manner in which many Catholics relate to one another. Yet God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4) and no one can survive without divine forgiveness (Psalm 130:3). From the frequent cry for mercy in the Divine Liturgy we learn the foundation of true human solidarity: since all are in need of God's tender compassion, we must be merciful toward one another."
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