(The Evening Bulletin, July 30, 1976)
By Paula Herbut
Of The Bulletin Staff
Josef Cardinal Slipyj, the 84-year-old spiritual leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, has been refused permission by Pope Paul VI to attend the 41st International Eucharistic Congress, the head of the Philadelphia Ukrainian Catholic Church has confirmed.
The cardinal has been living at the Vatican in exile from the Soviet Union since his release 13 years ago from a Siberian labor camp. The Pope’s permission is necessary for him to obtain a passport.
Bishop Basil Losten, bishop of the Philadelphia Archeparchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, confirming the report, said that he «saw a copy (of a letter) handwritten by the Holy Father, and the Holy Father deemed it unadvisable for Cardinal Slipyj to be present.»
He said he «didn’t see any reason given in the letter.»
The archeparchy is the Ukrainian Catholic diocese that includes about 180,000 people along the Eastern coast from Pennsylvania to Florida.
A spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archidiocese of Philadelphia, contacted last night, said he had heard nothing about the matter and could make no immediate comment.
A national Ukrainian group claiming 50,000 lay members who consider the cardinal as Patriarch is charging «diplomatic persecution» by the Vatican.
«We understand it as politics – detente with the Soviet Union,» Eva Piddubcheshen, a spokeswomen for the national Society for a Patriarchal System for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, said in a telephone interview from New York City. She said that «most of (Cardinal Slipyj’s) activities have been curbed because they were displeasing to the Moscow (Russian Orthodox) patriarchate and the (Russian) government.»
The Ukrainian Catholic Church was banned in the Soviet Union in 1946.
Bishop Losten said that the Pope’s action may have come from a desire to avoid «disruption» within the church.
The cardinal has been a center of controversy in the church over the title of Patriarch, which would give him both authority over the estimated five-to-seven-million Ukrainian Catholics in the world and a Patriarchate in the Ukraine.
He also has pressured for the Vatican to speak out against persecution of Ukrainian Catholics in the Soviet Union.
He is considered a rally point as well for Ukrainian Catholics who are fearful of their church’s identity being lost in the Roman Catholic Church. Part of that identity is the Ukrainian church’s tradition of married priests.
The church is part of the Byzantine Eastern rite Catholic Churches, which are similar to the Eastern Orthodox Churches but under the jurisdiction of the Vatican. Its affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church was made in 1596.
Cardinal Slipyj’s invitation to the Eucharistic Congress, a gathering of about one-million Catholics to be held in Philadelphia next week, was a «personal» one made by the Ukrainian committee of the congress to all of the Ukrainian Catholic bishops, Bishop Losten, chairman of the committee said.
No formal invitation was extended to the cardinal by the congress.
The national patriarchal group was informed of the Pope’s refusal in a letter from the cardinal dated June 17:
«Today…I have received a letter from the Holy Father in which he refused me permission to go to the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. This terminates all doubts and all expectations,» Ms. Piddubcheshen reported the letter said. The cardinal signed the letter, «With Patriarchal Blessings, Josef Slipyj, Patriarch,» she said.
The Pope has not recognized the cardinal as Patriarch. The cardinal has been using the title in correspondence since 1973, however, after he attended the 40th International Eucharistic Congress in Melbourne, Australia.
The title is one of debate within the church. In 1969 a synod of 19 of the 21 Ukrainian Catholic bishops from around the world petitioned the Pope to establish a patriarchate in in Kiev-Halych in the Ukraine with Cardinal Slipyj as Patriarch.
The Pope turned the petion down in July 1971.
The Ukrainian Catholic bishops then convoked a synod, or meeting, in protest. They reiterated their «allegiance» to the Pope, but at the same time they drafted a constitution for the Ukrainian Catholic Church and elected a five-man governing body to govern the church.
Bishop Losten said that «canonically» he is unable to consider him (Cardinal Slipyj) Patriarch» because the title has «not been approved yet by the Pope or papal synod.»
Others say that the Pope’s approval is not necessary because the 1969 bishops’ synod petition was enough to give him the title.
Father Andrushkiw, of Cohoes, N.Y., who is national president of the St. Andrews Society, an organization of priests who support the patriarchal movement, said thad «l believe he is the Patriarch.»
The cardinal was archbishop of the Lviv, Ukraine, archdiocese at the time of his arrest by the Soviet police in 1945. The archdiocese was the only Ukrainian archdiocese in the world at that time, and so its archbishop was considered primate, or head, of the church, Father Andrushkiw said.
After the cardinal’s release in 1963, the Pope named him Major Archbishopof the Ukrainian Catholic Church, or official head of the church, and two years later, appointed him a cardinal.
The powers of a major archbishop and a Patriarch are similar; among them is the power to convoke synods.
But «the name (Patriarch) is acknowledged more,» Father Andrushkiw said.
The Pope’s «acknowledgement» of the title «would show to the Russians that the (Ukrainian Catholic) Church exists and that the Vatican wants this church to exist,» he said.
It also would strengthen the church within the Roman Catholic jurisdiction, he said.
Cardinal Slipyj is considered a national hero to Ukrainians.
When he was arrested along with the entire Ukrainian Catholic-Church hierarchy by the Russian government it was at a time when the Soviet government was beginning a move to absorb the Ukrainian Catholic Church into the Orthodox Church.
The charges against Cardinal Slipyj were «high treason,» and «communicating with a foreign power.» One of the theories was that the foreign power meant the Pope.
The Vatican and others negotiated for his release, which came in February of 1963.
He has lived at the Vatican since.