ROME (NC) — This is the text of a previously unpublished Feb. 5
letter from Pope John Paul II to Ukrainian-Rite Cardinal Josyp Slipyj
announcing the Pope’s plan to call a synod of Ukrainian Bishops.
To our venerable brother, Cardinal Josyp Slipyj, Major Archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians.
This Feb 17, your most reverend eminence will have completed, at God’s pleasure, your 88th years. As I cordially congratulate you and join with you in giving thanks to the Lord, I am happy to retrace in thought the various stages of your long life, filled with toil and dedicated to the service of the church, and in particular the great sufferings you have undergone for the cause of Christ and His Gospel. Along with my venerable predecessors, Pius XII, John XXII and Paul VI, I too have wished to give witness to my special benevolence and esteem toward your eminence. I had the opportunity to do this, among other times, in the letter which I addressed to you on the occasion of the celebration beginning the preparation of the millennium of Christianity in Rus-Ukraine, and also on the occasion of the solemn episcopal ordination I conferred last November on the metropolitan of Philadelphia of the Ukrainians.
In connection with the sincere sentiments expressed here, I am prompted to tell you that the circumstance of all venerable age reached by your eminence has confronted me with the question whether as supreme pontiff I have the duty to make some provision with vigilant care and apostolic solicitude both for your eminence’s personal tranquility and for the needs of the Ukrainian Church.
Taking advantage of the recent episcopal ordination mentionec above, I made inquiries among authoritative representatives of the Ukrainian-hierarchy as well as my own collaborators, and I have given the issue personal attentive reflection along with fervid prolonged prayer.
The response to this inquiry was completely affirmative: it is my apostolic duty to make provisions for sustaining your eminence in your difficult task and giving the Ukrainian Church, as far as possible, renewed strength for its spiritual life.
Consequently, I have reached the decision to appoint a coadjutor with right of succession to your eminence, after a synod of all the Ukrainian Bishops of the diaspora has been convoked and in addition to grant extraordinary faculties for other synodal meetings of the same Bishops for the future «at the will of the supreme pontiff.»
I consider it opportune to say something about my reasons which will aid in the understanding and carrying out of what is to be done.
First of all, it will be stated that the continuing exceptional and distressing difficulties faced by the Ukrainian Catholic Church in its homeland make it impossible to summon a synod of bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Lviv. (The major archbishop is, in fact, in exile and prevented from functioning, and the two suffragan Sees, Premysl and Stanislaviv, are vacant). The Major Archbishop, therefore, is unable to invite to an archepiscopal synod even the «aggregated» hierarchs, namely those who reside in countries outside the territory of the Lviv province.
There is no intention to extend the jurisdiction of the Major Archbishop beyond the confines of his territory by means of extraordinary faculties, or to erect a Ukrainian patriarchate — issues which were already treated separately.
This having been said, I want to communicate to your eminence the following:
1. For the nomination of the above mentioned coadjutor with right of succession of the archepiscopal See of Lviv, I have decided to convoke a synod of all the Ukrainian Bishops of the diaspora, who will be obliged to participate in it.
The synod, presided over by me or a delegate of mine, will have the task of presenting a group of three candidates, from among whom, or if necessary outside of whom, I will designage the coadjutor.
2. The Major Archbishop, «at the will of the supreme pontiff,» will be able to convoke other synods, either to handle business or to propose candidates for the episcopate. He will proceed as follows:
— For each individual synod, a request to be able to hold it will be submitted to the Pope, together with a disclosure of the question to be considered.
— Having obtained authorization, the Major Archbishop will call a synod of all the Ukrainian Bishops.
— The declaration of March 25, 1970, regarding «aggegratus» will be applied to such synods.
I heartily hope your eminence will understand the high pastoral and spiritual reasons compelling me to make these dispositions for the purpose of meeting the needs of the Ukrainian Church.
I will be grateful if your eminence will let me know the preferred date for convoking the synod for the election of the coadjutor. It ought to take place quite soon.
Until the time of the papal convocation, your eminence must also observe the strictest secrecy.
In the meantime I am very happy to renew to you, dear eminence, my affectionate sentiments in Christ and the wish that the Lord may bestow his choicest blessings on your venerable person and on the beloved Ukrainian Church, which I remember profusely in my prayers every day.
From the Vatican, Feb. 5, 1980,
the second year of my pontificate.
(Signed) Joannes Paulus pp. II