A Message to Catholics in Canada on the Occasion of the Holy Father's Visit to Ukraine

Wednesday, June 20 2001

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The Holy Father’s visit to Ukraine is a great gift of grace and God’s Providence. Pope John Paul II will be the third pope to set foot on Ukrainian territory, the first to do so voluntarily, since during the first millennium Popes Clement I and Martin I had gone to the Crimea in exile. For the Ukrainian Catholic Church which has suffered and endured a catacomb-like experience under Stalinist persecution, this is a moment of realization of the promise that our Lord would remain with us to the end of time (Mt. 28:20). As a Church that is currently renewing its efforts of bringing anew the Gospel message in Ukraine and throughout the world, we wish to express our joy and hope on this most happy occasion.

The Holy Father’s pilgrimage to Ukraine marks yet another particular moment in the journey towards the restoration of unity among all Christians, especially assisting in the reconciliation and unity between Catholics and Orthodox. The restoration of Christian unity is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council (Unitatis Redintegratio,1).  In fidelity to the Council’s vision, we commend the members of the Ukrainian Catholic Church for their efforts to initiate dialogue with their Orthodox brothers and sisters, and encourage their ongoing commitment through prayer, word and action, to fullness of unity in Jesus Christ  (Unitatis Redintegratio, 4).

Many people from Ukraine began to emigrate to Canada just over century ago, bringing with them their language, customs, and faith. At the urging of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, Ukrainian Catholics in Canada received their first eparch in the person of Nykyta Budka, a young pioneer bishop who was enthroned in Winnipeg on the Feast of the Conception of St. Anne (Immaculate Conception) 1912. Under his leadership, the Ukrainian Catholic Church became well established throughout Canada. We are happy to see in his beatification among the Ukrainian martyrs the Church’s  recognition of his sanctity and zeal for the Gospel.

To the Ukrainian Catholic faithful of Canada, we wish to express our recognition and deepest appreciation of your faithfulness to the message of the Gospel, and being true to your rich ecclesial heritage. You are living witnesses of that diversity which enriches the Church’s life and mission. We are grateful for the contribution that your witness has made to the Catholic Church in our country.  At the same time, we praise your exemplary efforts at assisting your Church in Ukraine in the past and encourage your continuation in this endeavour.  Above all, we rejoice with you on this special occasion of the Pope’s visit to the land of your ancestors.

On this auspicious occasion, we wish to encourage Canadian Catholics, both Latin and Eastern, to come to a better understanding of the traditions of our Sister Churches of the East and to pray for the restoration of Christian unity in Ukraine, and indeed throughout the world.

X Gerald Wiesner, OMI
Bishop of Prince George
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops