MEETING WITH SLOVAK COMMUNITY
OF THE BYZANTINE RITE
SEPTEMBER 15, 1984
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In the joy of the Risen Saviour, I greet the Slovak community of the Byzantine Rite of the Eparchy of Saints Cyril and Methodius of Toronto. I offer fraternal greetings, too, to the ecclesiastical and civil authorities who honour us by their presence here this evening. I am very pleased to be with you to bless the cornerstone of the Cathedral of the Transfiguration and to join you in offering praise and thanks to God for the wonders which he has accomplished in your midst.
The marvellous providence of God has indeed been with you in this land, protecting you and directing your lives since you first came here as immigrants. Among the many signs of his providential care, we remember how, twenty years ago, in 1964, you were given your own Bishop of the Byzantine Rite. Later, in 1980, the Eparchy of Saints Cyril and Methodius was established. And with the blessing of this new Cathedral, we witness another sign of the hand of God directing your destiny and watching over you each day. The same providence that has sustained your people in the great suffering and sad deprivations which the Church has undergone in Slovakia has brought you to this day.
It is my hope and prayer that the Eparchy of Saints Cyril and Methodius will likewise continue to develop and grow, and thus become in Christ an evermore effective instrument of evangelization and example of authentic Christian life. May the Lord also hasten a time of peace and total freedom for the Church in the land of your origin, so that "your joy may be complete" (cf. Jn 15:11).
Two historic events of 1980 are of special importance to the Byzantine Slovaks of Canada, and both of these render particular homage to the memory of Saints Cyril and Methodius. On October 13 of that year, I erected the Eparchy of Toronto which bears their names, and on December 31, I declared these two holy brothers to be Patrons of all Europe, together with Saint Benedict.
Saints Cyril and Methodius are rightly known as the Apostles of the Slavs. Motivated by missionary zeal they left their own homeland to begin to proclaim, in 863, the Gospel of Christ in Moravia and Slovakia. In order to teach the faith to the people, they translated the Gospels and the liturgical books into the Slavonic language. In doing this, they made possible a most successful evangelizing effort. In addition, they laid the foundations for the literary development of the religious and social culture of the Slavs.
These great missionary saints are also remembered for their commitment to the unity of the Church. They were fervent priests of the Byzantine Rite who carried out their pastoral work in union with the Church in Constantinople, which had sent them forth, and with the Church in Rome, which confirmed their mission.
Eleven centuries later we still remember, with great admiration and a deep sense of gratitude to God, the valiant achievements of Cyril and Methodius. The Old Slavonic language of the Sacred Liturgy of the Byzantine Rite stands as a living reminder of their immense influence in the Church. Generations yet to come will not cease to remember their zeal for the Word of God, their dedication to the Slavic culture, their love for the Sacred Liturgy and their commitment to the great cause of unity. For these reasons and others, the Apostles of the Slavs inspire us today, while they support us by their prayers.
It is a joy for me to bless the cornerstone of the new Cathedral of the Transfiguration. As the principal church of the Eparchy, this Cathedral is a symbol of the light of the Gospel, transmitted through the teaching of the Bishop. It is likewise a symbol of the religious heritage of the Slovak people. Here, the Byzantine liturgy will be celebrated in all its solemn beauty; and here, in a special way, your bishop will proclaim the Gospel and hand on to you, and to your children and your children's children, the authentic teaching of the Church.
The name of the new Cathedral directs our attention to our Saviour Jesus Christ and to that moment in human history when he gave Peter, James and John a glimpse of the glory which he shares with the Father. This revelation of Jesus as the beloved Son of God confirmed the Apostles in their faith. And later on it would sustain them during the darkness of Jesus' Passion and during the times when they, too, would share in the Cross of Christ. The Transfiguration, then, and this Cathedral bearing its title, stir up our hope of sharing in this mystery, of being ourselves transfigured by the grace of the Lord, so as to share in his glory.
On this occasion, our thoughts go back to Paul VI, who died on August 6, the day on which the mystery of the Transfiguration is celebrated in both the Byzantine and the Roman Rites. It was he who gave Bishop Rusnak to you in 1964. And this new Cathedral of the Transfiguration is in some part due to the pastoral solicitude of this great Pope for you and for all Slavs. As I bless the cornerstone today, the Church of Rome renews her love and pastoral concern for your people.
I would like, now, to extend a particular word of commendation to Bishop Borecky and the entire Ukrainian Eparchy of Toronto for the fraternal support and encouragement which they have been offering to Byzantine Slovaks for a number of years. Their respect for different religious and cultural traditions and their readiness to assist have been a great help in the establishment of the new Eparchy of Saints Cyril and Methodius. Their collaboration has been a model of harmony and fraternal assistance for other communities.
Before concluding, I wish to tell you how pleased I am by your devotion to Mary the Mother of God. This is evident in your liturgy and is shown by the publication entitled "Maria". This publication, which is a comfort to people far from their homeland, is also a means of fostering true Marian devotion. May you continue in this worthy endeavour, and may Mary assist you on your way.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: walk always in the light and power of the Risen Lord; be strong in hope and in the love of God and neighbour; persevere in your worthy Slovak traditions and your heritage of faith. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all" (2 Th 3:17).
Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada