Autonomy for the Ukrainians (condensed from «Diakonia», June 1972)

The Pope has refused to establish a Ukrainian patriarchate. But what is at stake is a totally different question — one which he himself and the Eastern Churches’ canon law have already answered. The Ukrainian Catholic Church, being under a major-archbishop, now possesses all the powers to rule itself as a particular Church through a type of synodal administration according to its ancient rights and privileges.

The further question and the really crucial one here is: Does an Eastern Patriarch or Major-Archbishop have jurisdiction only within his own, territory?

The fact is that both the Eastern patriarchs and the Western patriarch, the bishop of Rome, have constantly violated this principle of territory. The reason is found in the Eastern Churches’ Canon Law itself which explicitly states that the principle of territory holds «unless some other reason demands otherwise from the very nature of the case or constituted by some right.

A very concrete case, an exact parallel to that of the Ukrainian Major-archiepiscopate, is found in the seventh century when in the Synod of Trullo (692) it was decreed that the Cypriotes who fled from Arab persecution in Cyprus to take up residence near Constantinople were to be under the jurisdiction of their own Major-Archbishop and not under that of the Patriarch of Constantinople in whose territory they now lived. This may well be the first case of double jurisdiction in the same territory. But it can be multiplied by innumerable examples. How many times has the Latin Church set up its own jurisdiction in Eastern lands because their faithful had either migrated there or because Latin missionaries had made converts to the Latin rite of the native Eastern rite Christians or non-Christians. The examples are clear and numerous.

In Lviv itself there had existed for centuries three jurisdictions within the very same territory: a Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop, an Armenian Archbishop, and a Latin rite Archbishop. The question which should be asked is why does the Pope of Rome suddenly call upon the principle of territory to restrict the Ukrainian Church in its demands for autonomy to exercise jurisdiction wherever Ukrainian Catholics reside when for centuries the good of souls has dictated that this outdated principle of territory be ignored?

To appeal solely to this principle and to forget the good of the faithful is to play legal games and to forget that the Church is the Body of Christ. Jurisdiction is given to help the faithful grow in Christ. When modern circumstances of life under Communism have created situations in which a Church of six million cannot function according to ancient rules, then the good of the faithful clearly demands that rules be changed — in fact, that they be automatically ignored because a greater principle is at stake — the good of the faithful demands another principle.

A noted Eastern canonist teaching at the Pontifical Oriental Institute, J. Rezac, S.J., argues in a recent article that the jurisdiction of Patriarchs and Major-Archbishops must be extended outside of their own territories. His basic reason is that the Mother Churches are obviously more capable of taking care of their own faithful. Such church leaders are able not only to obtain capable priests and bishops who know the traditions of their Church, but they will zealously maintain and foster their ancient rights and customs. The church is not a legal entity but a living organism whose health must be determined by the spiritual assistance given to the individual members. Patriarchs have a moral duty to their faithful to take care of them; but this means they must enjoy jurisdiction over those faithful wherever they live. The Church has changed much and with so much intermingling of nationalities in today’s world, the personal aspect is more important in questions of jurisdiction than the principle of territory. Another reason J. Rezac gives flows from the principle propounded by Vatican II that insists so strongly on the observance of subsidiarity. If a lower unit, a person, or a community, can effect something with efficiency, there is no need to appeal to a higher authority. Surely a Synod of Ukrainian bishops under the Major-Archbishop is more capable of knowing and meeting the needs of their own people than the Eastern Congregation headed by a Belgian Latin rite Cardinal, whose secretary is an Italian Latin rite Archbishop. Another reason is the ecumenical dimension. If the Catholic Church is sincere about showing Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant Christians that she respects their true ecclesial elements — and for the Orthodox the basic form of Church administration is the patriarchal system—Rome will have to back up its high-sounding rhetoric about the respect it professes for the patriarchal form of administration by recognizing that form as viable and allowable for the Eastern Catholic Churches.

The Orthodox have found from experience that such a patriarchal system is more effectively pastoral and produces greater good when each Orthodox Patriarchal Church is allowed to extend its jurisdiction outside of its territory to wherever the faithful of their respective Churches live. If the Orthodox were to unite with Rome, would the Pope of Rome refuse the Patriarchal Orthodox Churches jurisdiction over their faithful in America because this was outside of their patriarchal limits?

The ultimate reason that summarizes all of the foregoing is that the good of the Ukrainian faithful demands that the Ukrainian Catholic Church not be given something new to better assist its people, but that the good of the faithful demands the full recognition of what has been an integral part of the rights of the Ukrainian Church since the Union of Brest in 1596. The Roman Catholic Church has stated for decades and reaffirmed with special vigor at Vatican II that the Eastern Catholic faithful be ruled by the leaders of their respective Churches according to their ancient rights and privileges.

This is to make the Church truly Catholica, allowing a richness of diverse forms of liturgical, canonical, theological, and spiritual expression flowing from the particular Churches that develop in Christlike charity and harmony with their sister-churches, all under the loving service of the head of the Church of Rome. Then jurisdiction will be seen not as power to be jealously held on to and fought for, but an opportunity to give greater service to Christ’s flock. Only by recognizing the autonomy that the Ukrainian Catholic Church always had the right to exercise will the Ukrainian Church grow dynamically as a part of those Eastern Churches that the Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council «solemnly declared … fully enjoy the right and are in duty bound to rule themselves». If the Ukrainian Catholic Church cannot rule itself under its Major-Archbishop and his synod of bishops but must continue to be legislated by the Eastern Congregation, the Ukrainian Church will be extinct in a few years together with the other Eastern Catholic Churches. The Roman Church will ceased to be Catholic and a particular Church will wrongly claim to be the universal Church founded by Christ. But history will rise up to haunt that claim.

On February 17. 1972 Josyf Cardinal Slipyi, celebrated in Rome his 80th birthday. Still amazingly strong and agile in body and mind in spite of 18 long, torturous years in Siberian labor camps, he stated during a Liturgy concelebrated with other Ukrainian bishops that the Vatican was making him4suffer more that he did under the Soviets. «Some of the sufferings that I have had to undergo since ray liberation and during the period of my so-called liberty, have been harder to take than those of my imprisonment or even at the time when I was condemned to death».

Cardinal Slipyi suffers to see himself, the Major-Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, head of his Church with his see of residence in Lviv, with the ancient title of Metropolitan of Kiev and Halych and yet unable to administer to his Church in the Ukraine. In 1946 the Soviets liquidated his Church and 4 million faithful with their 3.000 parishes.

He suffers to see the remnant of hope – the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the diaspora numbering about a million and a half faithful with 24 bishops – scattered about in 16 different countries and floundering for lack of leadership in its search for identity in strange lands.

He suffers to see his beloved Church made a pawn as Vatican plays political chess with the Kremlin leaders. The Pope’s emissary behind the Iron Curtain, Archbishop Agostino Casaroli, has been pursuing a rapprochement with the Soviet bloc Communists over the past few years to gain some concessions, especially for the Latin Catholics in Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Poland and the U.S.S.R. The implicit condition for continued dialogue is that the Ukrainian Catholic Church must not be allowed to take on new life.

Cardinal Slipyi knows from vivid, personal experience how the Soviet authorities fear any native, popular movement, especially when it is deeply religious and bound in its allegiance to a center outside the U.S.S.R. like the Vatican. It grieves the venerable prelate to see John Cardinal Willebrands, head of the Secretariat for promoting Christian Unity, representing the Pope at the enthronization of Patriarch Pimen of the Russian Orthodox Church in June, 1971. without registering a protest when Patriarch Pimen called upon all present to rejoice at the triumphal return into the Orthodox Church in 1946 of the Uniates who had been forced into union with Rome at the Union of Brest, 1596».

He suffers to see that in official Vatican circles such as the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity and the Congregation for Eastern Churches the Eastern Catholic Churches especially his Ukrainian Church, are conceived of as the greatest obstacle for reunion with the Orthodox. He sees definite signs of a movement being fostered to remove the so-called Uniates from the ecumenical scene either by liquidation or by heavy Roman control so that the Eastern Catholics do not develop and eventually they will disappear by assimilation.

Part of his suffering has come from the Congregation for Eastern Churches and its direct interference in allowing his Church to exercise the autonomy already granted it by the existing Church legislation, especially the Eastern Code of Cannon Law, as expressed in «Cleri Sanctitati» (1957). In the latter legislation a major-archbishop is equivalent to a patriarch. On December 23. 1963. the Congregation for Eastern Churches clarified the question by affirming that Metropolitan Slipyi was a major-archbishop in the sense defined by Cannon law and hence equivalently a patriarch.

But even though the declaration «Apostolica Sedes» of March 25. 1970. clearly allowed all bishops outside of the ancient territories of a patriarchate ( or major-episcopate, an equivalent) to have full participation in patriarchal synods, Maximilian Cardinal de Furstenberg insisted that the Ukrainian bishops, meeting in Rome in the 4th Synod in October, 1969 and again in November, 1971. were participating not in a synod but a conference.

Another high-handed way of proceeding was the same declaration issued by the Congregation for Eastern Churches that set the norms for the appointment of new Eastern bishops. Three candidates were to be chosen in synod by the patriarch and his bishops, including the «aggregati» or bishops from outside the patriarchal territories. The Pope would then choose the candidate from these names. But clearly the Congregation ignored its own norms when the Pope appointed Bishop John Stock and Basil Losten as auxiliaries to Archbishop Senyshyn in February and May respectively of 1971. A similar sadness was inflicted upon Cardinal Slipyi, when, without consulting him or following the procedure outlined by the Congregation («Apostolica Seded»), the Pope raised the Ukrainian Apostolic Exarchate in Brazil to an eparchy of Curitiba but also explicitly placed its Ukrainian Bishop gravity directly under the Latin Archbishop of Sao Paolo.

Cardinal Slipyi`s greatest sorrow came when Pope on July 7, 1971, communicated to him his rejection of the Ukrainian Bishops’ proposal as articulated in the proceedings of the 4-th Synod of 1969 that the Holy Father establish a Ukrainian Patriarchate.

Such disappointments would have stopped men of lesser moral fiber than Metropolitan Slipyi. Undaunted, the aged prelate rose before the gathered hierarchs at the Rome Synod in October, 1971 to plead for his suffering underground Church in the Ukraine. He went further even defying the expressed wished of John Cardinal Villot, Secretary of State and Prefect of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church not to hold a synod. Cardinal Villot sent a copy of a memorandum to each Ukrainian Bishop, gathered in Rome for the rededication of Ss. Sergius and Bacchus and the commemoration of the 375th Anniversary of the Union of Brest. recalling to mind that there was to be no patriarchate as well as no canonical synod. The sessions were held from October 31 to November 5, 1971.

Under the dynamic determination of Cardinal Slipyi the Ukrainian Bishops were very much aware of their rights sanctioned in the present-day legislation for Eastern Catholic Churches to hold a canonical synod. They elected to establish a permanent synod made up of Cardinal Slipyi and four other hierarchsj Metropolitan Ambrose Senyshyn of Philadelphia and Archbishop Ivan Buchko as the senior members, Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk of Winnipeg as the choice of the Major-Archbishop and Bishop Andrew Sapelak of Argentina as the choice of the bishops. Other topics were discussed, including the problem of a married clergy. It is to be noted that for this synod, unlike the 4th Synod, Major-Archbishop Slipyi and the other Bishops in Synod did not ask for the Pope’s recognition of the validity of this synod, but merely out of courtesy asked his benediction. To date there has been no official reaction on the part of Vatican officials. Their policy seems to be to ignore this synod as a bad dream and to act as before, especially in the appointment of new Ukrainian bishops without consulting Cardinal Slipyi and his synod.

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