Moscow (AsiaNews) - The retirement of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, 77, from the post of Archbishop of Kiev, did not make headlines in Russia. But in Ukraine, his words rung clear and clean. Leaving the leadership of the Church Greek- Catholic Ukrainian (Uniate) archdiocese for health reasons, the cardinal delivered a strong message to politicians, who continue to ignore the religious minorities, and an appeal to spiritual leaders for the achievement of unity among Christians.
The privileges of "one Church"
"The authorities do not want to talk to us - the cardinal during denounced a press conference in Kiev yesterday - for a whole year there have been no meetings with the president or other government officials to discuss our situation. This is a problem that must be resolved calmly and without exploitation". Viktor Yanukovich, orthodox and politically close to the Kremlin, has been leading Ukraine for the past year. Card. Husar made no secret that a number of religious denominations in the former Soviet country are having problems: "Many complain that only one Church (the Russian Orthodox Church, ed) enjoys special privileges, because our head of state is a member. Although pleased to have a president who is a believer, Husar has not failed to highlight the pressures on Greek-Catholics, with security agencies trying to convince clergy to work with them, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kiev Patriarchate, whose priests are forced to pass under the jurisdiction of the Patriarchate of Moscow. "The fact that one Church is privileged compared to another is not a gesture of love from the state, but a dangerous factor for the Church itself, because it undermines credibility in the eyes of the faithful," he added.
The reasons for retirement
Benedict XVI yesterday accepted Husar’s "resignation". He played down the reasons for the move saying that while he is "not healthy enough to continue being a leader", he is neither "one foot in the grave". Thus he assured his continuing commitment to participate fully in the life of the Greek - Catholic Church of Ukraine. "I will continue to pray for our Church ... and I want to meet young people and workers." The administration of the local church now goes to the Mgr. Ihor Vozniak, archbishop of Lviv, responsible for the convening of the synod of bishops of the Greek-Ukrainian Catholics for the election of the new Major Archbishop. Husar has launched an appeal to his successor: "Do not succumb to secularist temptations and preserve the unity and sanctity of the Church throughout the world."
A historic leader
Husar has lead Ukrainian Catholics since 2001. In 2005 he presided over the transfer of the Church from Lviv to Kiev. A move viewed with suspicion in some Orthodox circles. The Patriarchate of Moscow and All Russia has never concealed that the issue of Ukrainian Catholics - who, because united in Rome are called 'Uniate' - is one of the nodes to be resolved before the meeting between the Pope and Patriarch Kirill . By some estimates, Ukrainian Catholics count over five million. The major archbishop is the head of an Eastern Rite church, but united with Rome, and exercises the same jurisdiction of a Patriarch of an Eastern Catholic Church.