Addresses, Speeches, Homilies 1984

Meeting with the Ukrainians

SEPTEMBER 16, 1984

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a joy to be with you today in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vladimir and Olga in Winnipeg. I greet you, Archbishop Hermaniuk, my other Brothers in the Episcopate, and all of you assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. With joy I note the representations of the Eparchies of Edmonton, Toronto, New Westminster and Saskatoon. Through you I extend cordial greetings to all the faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Byzantine Rite and to all the Ukrainian people of Canada. I greet you as a fellow Slav, sharing to a large degree in your spirit and heritage. I am especially happy to be with you as we draw near to the solemn celebration of the First Millennium of Christianity in the Ukraine. In you I embrace in the charity of Christ all the people of your homeland, together with their history, culture, and the heroism with which they have lived their faith. SLAVA ISYSY CHRISTY! (Praised be Jesus Christ!)

As Ukrainian Byzantine Catholics, you have inherited a great spiritual tradition, extending back a thousand years to the time of Saint Olga and her grandson Saint Vladimir. Who could have known then, how that faith would grow so organically with your culture, and how it would have such a major impact on your history as it brought the grace of the Redemption into the lives of your ancestors? So much could be said about this history, which not infrequently was linked with that of my own native land, but since time presses on, I must limit myself to recalling only a few important moments of your difficult yet noble past.

Events of every time and place are directed by the loving plan of God, for God is the Lord of history. In a special way God’s Providence has guided your development in Canada. The Archeparchy of Winnipeg, which is only the third Metropolitan See in the history of the Ukrainian people, was erected here in 1956, just forty-four years after you were given your first Bishop. This ecclesiastical province, like that small mustard seed of the Gospel, has quickly grown and flourished. When Ukrainian immigrants first came to this land, they brought with them a strong Catholic faith and a firm attachment to their religious and cultural traditions. They placed a high priority on the construction of their churches and schools, desiring to preserve this precious heritage and pass it on to their children. They sank deep roots into Canadian soil and quickly became productive and loyal citizens.

At the same time, a number of generous people greatly assisted the new immigrants. As soon as it was possible, the Metropolitan of Lwów, the servant of God Andrei Sheptyckyj, sent zealous priests to minister to their needs. He himself came on a visit in 1910 and prepared the way for the appointment of Bishop Budka, the first of your many zealous Bishops in this land. It is important, too, to remember the contributions made by many local Latin Rite Bishops and priests, some of whom dedicated as much attention and care to Ukrainians as to the faithful of their own rite. The presence here today of the Latin Rite Bishops is a sign of continuing harmony and collaboration. “Behold, how good it is, and how pleasant, when brethren dwell at one” (Ps 133).

Your own Byzantine clergy, together with your men and women religious, contributed greatly to your adjustment and growth in this land. Religious such as the Basilian, Redemptorist and Studite Fathers, and the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate have staffed parishes, hospitals, schools and many other institutions. All of these have served to protect and strengthen family life, offer assistance to the sick and needy, and contribute to the betterment of society.

Our meeting today, taking place as it does on the threshold of the solemn celebration of the Millennium of Christianity in Kiev and the entire Ukraine, carries our minds and hearts back through the centuries of your glorious history of faith. We feel deep gratitude to God, in a special way, for the grace of fidelity to the Catholic Church and loyalty to the Successor of Saint Peter which was bestowed on your forebears. As Archbishop of Krakow I came to know and appreciate this precious heritage of the Ukrainian people, as seen particularly in the martyrs of Cholm and Pidlassia who followed the example of Saint Josaphat, a great apostle of unity, and as seen also in the pastoral zeal of so many of your Bishops, down to the present day.

These great men and women of Ukrainian history encourage you today to live your Catholic faith with equal fervour and zeal. They inspire you, too, to work and pray without ceasing for the unity of all Christians. In the many and varied ecumenical efforts of the Church, members of the Byzantine Rite like yourselves have a special role to play in regard to the Eastern Christians who are not in full communion with the See of Peter.

You are in a privileged position to fulfil [sp] that request of the Second Vatican Council which is expressed in the Decree on Ecumenism, namely: “Everyone should realize that it is of supreme importance to understand, venerate, preserve and foster the rich liturgical and spiritual heritage of the Eastern Churches in order faithfully to preserve the fullness of Christian tradition, and to bring about reconciliation between Eastern and Western Christians” (Unitatis Redintegratio, 15). Your Ukrainian heritage and your Byzantine spirituality, theology and liturgy prepare you well for this important task of fostering reconciliation and full communion. May the hearts of all Bishops, priests, religious and laity be filled with a burning desire that the prayer of Christ be realized: “May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us, as you are in me and I am in you, so that the world may believe it was you who sent me” (Jn 17:21).

But this desire for unity will only be realized if it goes hand in hand with a sincere fraternal love towards all, a love like that of Christ which is without limit or exception. Such Christian love will open our hearts to the light of divine truth. It will help to clarify the differences which still divide Christians, foster constructive dialogue and mutual understanding, and thereby further the salvation of souls and the unity of all in Christ. And we must remember that this Christian love is nurtured by prayer and penance.

Dear brothers and sisters: it is good to be with you today. I rejoice to see your children dressed in your beautiful national costumes, and to know that your young people are growing up with a grateful awareness of their ethnic origins and religious roots. I join you in thanking God for the many institutions and traditions which aid and strengthen the bonds of your families, which are the foundation of the Church and society. May you always preserve with fitting pride the heritage of faith and culture which is yours. I place this intention, together with all your prayers, before the Immaculate Virgin Mary, Queen of the Ukraine, asking her to protect you with her motherly love and lead you ever closer to her divine Son, Jesus Christ the Redeemer of the world. Beloved friends: in the words of the Apostle Peter: “Peace to all of you who are in Christ” (1 P 5:14).

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada