Thursday, March 16, 2006

"Purified By Persecution"

A few weeks ago while over at Ukie Central for the ordination of a new eparch, I found myself catching up afterward with a Latin prelate I've known for many years. He was amazed by the Divine Liturgy we'd just experienced -- it was his first.

He started listing the things that amazed him: "The music, the fervor, the young children!" I replied that when a people have suffered for something, especially for their faith, they recognize its importance and celebrate it better than those who've had the luxury of the freedom to practice it without a second thought; that's just human nature.

I was reminded of this a few minutes ago, seeing that the Holy See has just published a letter sent from Benedict XVI to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, major archbishop of Kiev and head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the 1946 Pseudo-Synod of Lviv.

As the legendary scholar of the Eastern churches Fr Bob Taft described the event in a 2000 lecture:
On March 8-10, 1946, a "synod" of 216 terrorized priests and nineteen laypersons, orchestrated in Lviv under the leadership of this group, abolished the Union of Brest (1596) [the accord which brought the UGCC into communion with Rome]. This purported to be a synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and to this day the Russian Orthodox Church has claimed it to be such and has steadfastly refused to repudiate either the synod or its own role in the charade. But as the Russian Orthodox Church authorities [were] well aware, the entire Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy was in prison, and the entire presidium of the synod had in fact already become Orthodox, though this was kept secret until the farce was a fait accompli. The action was followed by massive arrests, interrogations, abuse, trials, banishment and deportations, causing incalculable suffering and death.
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic churches of the world commemorated the anniversary over the weekend, offering Divine Liturgies "for the victims of persecution and their persecutors." The restored hierarchy of the UGCC, led by Husar, held an observance in Kiev which ran for several days.

In his letter to the major archbishop, the Pope spoke of the Ukrainian church "purified by persecutions, from which streams of living water have flowed not only for Ukrainian Catholics, but for the whole Catholic Church spread throughout the world." "In the patient path of faith lived day by day," Benedict continued, "in communion with the Successors of the Apostles, which visible unity is guaranteed by the Successor of Peter, the Ukrainian Catholic community has succeeded in keeping alive its sacred Tradition in its integrity. As this precious patrimony of the "Paradosis" [the handing on of tradition] permeates it in all its richness, it's important to reinforce the presence of the two great threads of one Tradition -- the Latin thread and the Oriental one -- both with the multiplicity of historic manifestations for which Ukraine is known to express."

"Twofold is the mission entrusted to the Greek-Catholic Church in full communion with Peter: on one part, it is its charge to keep the Oriental tradition visible within the Catholic Church; on the other, it is to favor the encounter of the traditions [of East and West], testifying not only to their compatibility, but also their profound unity in diversity," the Pope said.

Having spoken with Husar about all this some weeks ago -- an interview which was published in last week's edition of The Tablet -- this letter is quite nice to see.