American archbishop Lubachivsky will one day lead world`s Ukrainian-rite Catholics


OSV special report

The appointment of Archbishop Myroslav Lubachivsky of Philadelphia as coadjutor and eventual successor of Cardinal Josip Slipyi, archbishop of Lvov in the Ukraine, does not mean that Pope John Paul intends to grant Ukrainian Catholics a patriarchate in the foreseeable future. At least this is the opinion of Vatican sources who claim that John Paul wants to both strengthen the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but also maintain more control over it than would be possible if he bestowed the canonical and administrative powers which go with a patriarchate.

One motive to retain control could be that Rome does not want the Ukrainian Catholics to have a married priesthood, as do Eastern-Rite Catholic Churches with a patriarchate. This could be considered anomalous in places such as North America where large Ukrainian Catholic com­munities co-exist with the even larger Latin-Rite Catholic communities where priestly celibacy is obligatory.

But this canonical question is probably not as important as politico-ecumenical considerations. The Ukrainian Catholic community outside the U.S.S.R., estimated at 1.5 million, understandably is fiercely anti-communist and some members seem to want a patriarch as a civil as well as a religious leader. But the Vatican does not want to become involved in Ukrainian nationalist struggles, especially as Catholic/Pan-Orthodox theological dialogue, which may lead to the reunification of the two churches, is about to begin. The Vatican is now attempting to achieve unity whereas the Uniate churches represent previous piecemeal attempts to link Eastern-Rite Christians with Rome.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church is one of a series of Uniate churches regarded as traitors by other Eastern-Rite churches because they recognized Rome’s authority. They have suffered greatly for this allegiance, but as Melkite Patriarch Maximos Saigh said at the Vatican Council: «If Christian unity were reestablished, the Uniate churches would disappear. « Archbishop Saigh said they should accept this last sacrifice for the sake of Christian unity.

Perhaps Ukrainian Catholics and other Uniates would survive as local churches if unity were ever achieved But in the meantime, Rome seems intent on insuring that they do not upset ecumenical developments. However, within those limits it wants to reinforce the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Appointment of 66-year-old Archbishop Lubachivsky, as coadjutor to 88-year-old Cardinal Slipyi is one sign of this. And another is that further synods can be convoked, provided the pope’s approval is sought.

Archbishop Lubachivsky, who has lived half his life in the United States, but was born and educated in the икгаїпе, said he saw the Ukrainian Synod and the prospect of more synods in the near future as an important factor in developing unity among Ukrainian-Rite Catholics, who are widely dispersed around the world.

He also said the selection of new bishops would be an urgent priority for-upcoming synods, both because of ailing bishops and the need for auxiliaries in many dioceses.

«Our Sunday Visitor», April 13, 1980

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