To Our Venerable Brother Joseph of the Holy Roman Church Cardinal Slipyj
Major-Archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians
SUPREME PONTIFF PAUL VI
Our Venerable Brother greetings and Apostolic Benediction
The respect and the greatness of the paternal love which We have for you as well as the difficulties and the importance of the question which you and the other Ukrainian bishops have brought to Us have impelled Us to institute a new and most thorough review of the petition presented by you concerning the establishment of a Ukrainian patriarchate.
Because of this as well as to enable a full examination of the question» Jean Cardinal Villot, Our Secretary of State and Prefect of the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church, requested that you prepare a written report expounding once again all the arguments which in your opinion and that of the other Ukrainian bishops should be considered in reviewing a matter of such great importance.
It was your pleasure to comply with this request and you chose to submit an authoritative exposition together with the opinions of almost all of the Ukrainian bishops.
It seemed to Us, however, that the entire question should be submitted to a detailed examination and study of a small commission of Cardinal Fathers. At a meeting of the heads of the Congregations of the Roman Curia held on the 22nd day of the past month of June, the members, of this commission explained from every possible angle the conclusions that they arrived at from their examination of the question assigned to them.
Having seriously weighed before the Lord the opinions of the Cardinal Fathers, even though Our own mind was most inclined to accept your petitions, nevertheless, We have come with difficulty once again to the conclusion that it is Impossible, at least at this time, to establish a Ukrainian patriarchate.
There are canonical, historical, spiritual, and pastoral reasons which, due to contemporary circumstances, do not, alas, permit Us to satisfy the wishes and desires of the Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy.
Firstly, it is to be noted that the canonical discipline of the Eastern Churches which now has binding force—and which has also been confirmed by the conciliar decree Orientalium Ecclesiarum and the explanatory note [«Declaratio»] concerning the word «aggregatus» given on the 25th of March 1970—limits the jurisdiction of patriarchs within the boundaries of their own territory. Given the present norms now in force, it is impossible to foresee whether reinterpretetion and accomodation of the Eastern canonical law could bring about certain contemplated changes in the existing canons.
Wherefore, if in these present times a Ukrainian patriarchate were to be erected, this would give sudden birth to a canonical question of an entirely peculiar seriousness. Nonetheless, taking into consideration the sorrowful conditions in which your most noble and to Us most cherished fatherland finds itself at the present time, it would not be a question here of extending the legitimate exercise of patriarchal rights and duties beyond the territory of the patriarchate—a thing which would certainly result in the head of this particular patriarchate being granted greater authority than that which the other patriarchs now enjoy—but it would be rather a recognition of the possession of this kind of rights exclusively beyond the boundaries of the patriarchal territory. By the same token because of reasons which touch Our heart with the greatest grief, it would then follow that this particular patriarch at present would lack the possibility of exercising jurisdiction within the very limits of his own territory. Furthermore, the problems which could arise within the Catholic Church itself may be easily foreseen if such patriarchal jurisdiction, detrimental to other existing canonical jurisdictions, were to be recognized in those territories. In addition, who could prevent other patriarchs from seeking to enjoy the same faculty of extending their own competency beyond the limits of the territory and the prescriptions of canonical laws by which their authority is at present defined? On the other hand, diligent consideration must be given to situations which may result therefrom to Ukrainian Catholics who have been forced to silence thus far for fidelity to their own Faith in countries in which they live but which do not recognize the legitimacy of the Ukrainian Church. Would not the status of those Christian faithful, who at present distinguish themselves by their sincere faith, be rendered more difficult if a new patriarchate were to be erected publicly in foreign lands whose patriarch would openly take upon himself the task of defending their rights and hopes yet could not share their fate and alleviate it by his own presence?
Venerable Brother of Ours, since you know well of Our paternal and loving solicitude toward you and toward the Catholic Church of the Ukrainian Rite and also of Our participation in all the spiritual vicissitudes of this Church, We are full of confidence that you will accept with just evaluation the conclusions which We have now communicated to you.
Communicating this to you, We beseech and pray from Almighty God for you and all your labors a great abundance of heavenly graces and as a token of this We lovingly bestow in the Lord Our Apostolic Benediction upon you, Venerable Brother of Ours, and upon the entire Catholic Church of the Ukrainian Rite, most dear to us.
Given at Rome at Saint Peter’s, the 7th day of July on the Feast of-Saints Cyril and Methodius, 1971, in the ninth year of Our Pontificate.
Pope Paul VI.