06/02/2017, 10.02
UKRAINE-RUSSIA
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Death of Card. Lubomyr Husar, bishop of Kiev

by Stefano Caprio

He was a great witness to the Catholic faith and passionate in seeking unity among all Christians. Exile in the monastery of Grottaferrata. Friendship with Cardinal Josif Slipyj. He handled the return of the faithful to the Greek-Catholic Church after the fall of the USSR and healed the wounds of persecution. The telegram of Pope Francis to Archbishop Shevchuk, Successor to Husar.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - On 31 May, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, MSU, Major Archbishop Emeritus of Kyjv-Halič (Ukraine), spiritual leader of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, from 1996 to 2011, died on May 31st. One of the longest and most important bishops of the "united" Catholic Church of Lviv and Kiev, in the delicate period of post-communism and the modernization of modern Ukraine.

In his telegram of condolence to Husar’s successor,  Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk Pope Francis emphasized “his tenacious faithfulness to Christ, despite the hardships and persecutions against the Church, as well as his fruitful apostolic activity to promote the organization of Greek Catholic faithful, descendants of families forced to leave western Ukraine, and his efforts to find new ways for dialogue and collaboration with the Orthodox churches."

Pope Francis has clearly outlined the significance of the testimony of Cardinal Husar. In fact, he had to leave his home country of Lviv at the end of the war, which saw Ukraine move from the Nazi invasion to the Soviet invasion. After his studies and priestly education in America, he came to Rome where for many years he was superior of the monastery of Grottaferrata, a Byzantine enclave that was always united with the Pope (so not "uniate") where many monks from Ukraine kept the memory of their Church alive, along with their confreres from Italy, Albania and other parts of the world. Grottaferrata's monastery has always been a sanctuary of unity between the Christian East and West, and in those years Father Lubomyr really appeared as a prophet of the martyrdom that united believers in Christ during what was the most painful century for the Church of Eastern Europe .

Husar was a point of reference throughout the Ukrainian diaspora, along with legendary cardinal Josif Slipyj, liberated from Soviet lagers during the Second Vatican Council and who died in Rome in 1984, and his successor Myroslav Lubachivsky, to whom Husar was vicar general. Together with Cardinal Lubachivsky, Husar returned home after the end of Communism, and became bishop in 1996, confirming the ordination privately received in 1977 from Slipyj himself. He replaced Cardinal Lubachivsky at the leadership of the Ukrainian-Greek Catholic Church, becoming the first Exarch of Kyjv-Vyshgorod and thus the Archbishop of Lviv of Ukraine, which in 2004 changed his title to Kyjv-Halič. The "united" Church found at that moment the fullness of its own history, begun by the Union of Brest in 1596.

He managed to handle the most delicate phase of the Ukrainian Catholic revival after the early Nineties with the dramatic separation from Russia in the collapse of the USSR and the controversy over the return of the Churches to their jurisdiction. The Greek-Catholic Church had been suppressed by the Pseudo-Synod of Lviv in 1946, organized by Stalin and Chruščev with the forced complicity of the Patriarch of Moscow Alexander I, but the faithful remained united to Rome, and after 1990 they wanted to return without waiting for agreements or diplomatic talks. Archbishop Husar was able to control the situation with great wisdom, keeping the just aspirations of his faithful in line with true conversion, and accepting every little opportunity of confrontation and dialogue with representatives of the various Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, And the Patriarchate of Moscow itself with patience and delicacy.

Husar had an excellent preparation and ability to understand the events far superior to many others at home and abroad. On several occasions we met in Ukraine and Russia during the course of conventions and celebrations: he knew how to give all of us, priests and laity, clear and strong words of encouragement to enlighten our path of mission, evangelization and ecumenism. His paternal and stimulating wisdom was also acknowledged by all external interlocutors, ecclesiastical and non- ecclesiastical. He was aware that it takes a long time to overcome misunderstanding and incomprehension, as unfortunately the events of recent years show, but he never lost hope in a future of fraternity among all Christians, Europeans, men of the East and the West .

In the history of the Ukrainian Church there are many prophetic figures, the holy martyr Josafat Kuncewicz, martyr of the Union in 1623, Archbishop Andrej Szeptyckyj, for more than 40 years Archbishop of Lviv (1900-1944) and tireless preacher of the unity of Christians. Brother Klimentyj Szeptyckyj, archimandrite of the Ukrainian Studite monks and administrator of the Catholics in Russia, who died in the notorious Soviet prison of Vladimir in 1951, where the same Cardinal Slipyj was interred before he was released. Cardinal Husar was a successor and heir to these men, and his death today is an appeal to all Christians of Ukraine and the world to find in the faith the reasons to overcome the divisions of the world and to unite under the cross of Christ.

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