An appeal to the conscience of the World Synod of bishops 1974

On October 16, 1974, the Society for the Patriarchate in the Ukrainian Catholic Church sent a memorandum entitled “An Appeal to the Conscience of the World Synod of Bishops” and a partial documentation of the assertions made in it (See the Society’s LETTER to His Holiness Pope Paul VI, printed in the Journal DIAKONIA, vol. 9, No. 3, 1974) to all the participants of the Synod.

The materials were accompanied by a personal letter written to each of the participants. The letters, written in 9 languages (Italian, Spanish, French, German, English, Polish, Czech, Latvian, and Ukrainian), urged the Fathers of the Synod to raise their voices on behalf of the persecuted Ukrainian Catholic Church and her faithful.

Reprinted below is the text of the memorandum.


Our faith imposes on us the right and duty to turn to you with this plea concerning the plight of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Ukrainian Catholic Church, the largest of all the Eastern Churches in Union withe Rome, is at this moment in history an Ecclesia in extremis. In Ukraine, her hierarchy, clergy, and laity are suffering terrible persecution at the hands of the communist regime of the Soviet Union. As our beloved Primate, His Beatitude Cardinal Joseph Slipyj, recently pointed out to the World Synod of Bishops: “What honest man does not feel a pervasion of horror when he learns about a priest who is today condemned to three or more years of forced labor in Siberia.” But, as His Beatitude added, the persecution is not confined to the clergy. Thousands of the faithful are suffering in concentration camps and in insane asylums having been incarcerated for their loyalty to their Church and to the Holy See. And yet, to quote His Beatitude once again: “The faith is not dead.” The Ukrainian Catholics continue to this very day to bring the sacrifices demanded by their faith. Among the Ukrainians today, there are numerous martyrs and Confessors of Faith whose martyrdom is an instrument in our redemption. Venerable Fathers, all these people of God are in great need of your help. In the past, powerful voices have been raised in the Vatican defending the downtrodden everywhere —from Biafra to Bangladesh, but the millions of Ukrainians whose human rights and religious freedom are constantly violated, remain undefended. The names of these victims of Soviet terror and oppression are truly legion.

Thus, we ask you, Venerable Fathers, to heed the voices crying from behind the “Iron Curtain.” We ask you to imbue the severally tested faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the Soviet Union with a new spirit of hope and strengthen the presence of Grace in their hearts. This can be achieved only, if you, Venerable Fathers, firmly condemn the religious genocide currently practiced in the Soviet Union and use all the means available to you to alleviate the plight of the Ukrainian people. According to our Pontiff, Pope Paul VI, “the Church needs holy people” and “Holiness… is a note of the Church, an exterior quality, a recognizable beauty, an apologetic argument calculated to impress, historically and socially, the men who observe it with an honest eye, capable of recognizing spiritual values where they are” (stated in the course of general audience on November 4, 1972). Therefore, we, the undersigned officers of the Society for Patriarchate in the Ukrainian Catholic Church, appeal to you, Venerable Fathers, to turn your eyes and hearts toward the Ukrainian Catholic Church. We ask you to recognize her Holiness and her Martyrdom; we ask you to help her people to preserve their spiritual values in the face of great adversity. We ask you to cast aside political considerations and act in accordance with the Christian ethics of responsibility and decision, which is ultimately the ability of man to respond to God and His revealed World. Extend your helping hand, Venerable Fathers, to those who need it most and save the Ukrainian Catholic Church, the Silent Church of modern-day Catacombs, an Ecclesia in extremis.

Venerable Fathers, our appeal includes also the condition of our Church in the diaspora. During the past decade, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, an Ecclesia Particularis, in the Free World, has been subjected to countless injury and indignities at the hands of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches and those members of the Roman Curia who, for the sake of better relations with Moscow, are willing to sacrifice her on the altar of political expediency. The quest for a patriarchal structure for our Church has been met with countless obstacles; the synodal form of government, traditional to our Church, has been assailed and at times disrupted; some of our bishops have been intimidated and cajoled to forsake the aspirations which they held for our Church, and thousands of our faithful have suffered crises of conscience because of the Vatican manipulation of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. In addition, the Vatican has appointed bishops for our Church without consultation with the Primate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, His Beatitude Cardinal Joseph Slipyj and his Permanent Synod of Bishops, the lawful governing body of the Church. All these curial actions are undermining the unity of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and threaten her very existence. They are alienating the Ukrainian Catholic faithful from the Catholic Church and preventing the Orthodox and other Churches from considering more seriously the idea of a union with the Holy See.

For partial documentation of our assertions set forth in this appeal, we are enclosing a copy of our letter to the Holy Father Pope Paul VI, sent to him on April 18, 1973, and printed in the latest issue of the journal Diakonia (Vol. 9, No. 3, 1974, published by the John XXIII Center for Eastern Christian Studies, Fordham University, New York).

We hope, Venerable Fathers, that the Holy Spirit will move you to save the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Your decisive action now will not only save a Particular Church from destruction but also ensure the Holiness and the spiritual wellbeing of the Roman Catholic Church.

We pray for the success of your synodal deliberations and remain your humble servants in Christ.

Myroslaw Nawrockyj, M. D. President
Leonid Rudnytzky, Ph. D. Secretary 

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