Speech by His Eminency Joseph Cardinal Slipyj Delivered to the Synod of Catholic Bishops in Rome, October 1971

Most holy Father, venerable Presidents, and Brothers:

I am speaking on behalf of the Synod of the Catholic Ukrainian Bishops. First of all I thank you very much for the question placed in the agenda of this Synod about injustice, because today, in favor of all the oppressed who are suffering violence, the discussion of the inflicted offenses itself, provides a great relief. I think I can affirm without exaggeration that nobody ever suffered so much injustice in history as we Ukrainians, both the people and the Church, that is the Southern part of the Soviet Republic of Europe, during the centuries and especially in recent times. Therefore, if injustice is condemned by the Synod of the Bishops, a new hope and encouragement are inculcated in them. But before I touch my theme, I must answer to those very eminent orators who expressed the intention of selling the treasures of the museums in favor of the poor, because this is pertinent to me personally, since I founded quite a few museums. Firstly, even when the poor are involved, a great prudence is to be used. Because poverty, whenever it is connected with brutality, is not to be idealized as complete unhappiness. The poor are inclined to prodigality, and once they have received certain gifts without any work, easily dissipate them. It happens in fact that the poor ask for charity and at the same time smoke luxurious tobacco and drink brandy, etc. This I affirm, because I myself lived for years in extreme poverty, and I saw and observed the poor. Secondly, it must be distinguished between material poverty which must be aided with material help, and spiritual poverty which must be satisfied with spiritual treasures. A poor man must first of all be educated with spiritual and moral goods toward justice. This, however, cannot be obtained without the goods that concern culture, that is the ones which our ancestors created and left after them, and which are transmitted by history. Now then, selling the Vatican museums and the ecclesiastical works of the highest cultural value would be, on the one hand to fill the stomach, and or the other to deprive of nourishment the vacillating spirit. Historical monuments must not become an object of the market, and therefore the sale of the museums would be a very grave crime even against the poor.

The Church, embellished with artistic works, transports the faithful in an ecstasy of devotion and reaches the celestial spaces. In fact, the greatest monuments are in favor of religion. Justly here might be mentioned the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: «it is a grave loss to take from the temples and give to the poor; and yet you will always have the poor, but you will not always have temples. In fact social inequality, because of diverse ability of the intellectual human faculty, will never be removed. Therefore, if I had had the possibility, I would oppose the sale of the papal tiara, which has been made by the Holy Father, even though recognizing the heroic magnanimity and nobility and charity toward the poor.

This concerns the history of the Holy See, which is truly unalienable. Actually, the sale itself of the furniture and other articles of the episcopacy, which was made by some Bishops, is not to be praised, but all these things should be transformed into museums, in order to teach men in the future centuries. And a precious work, produced by our ancestors, would not be lost in the fire.

Some fathers might prefer that I speak of something related to the Orient, because the exotic oriental things attract vehemently the minds of the western fathers. Indeed there are many singular things and worthy of attention even in the Orient in reference to justice. Nevertheless, the situation of today, as we already mentioned, is very sad.

Our mind is primarily occupied with the Catholic church of the Ukrainians, whose condition of today faces the «to be or not to be,» as it has already been explained by other speakers.

During the First World War, Ukraine regained its independence, but after a few years, with the incoming of communism, was occupied by the Soviets. Our church was destroyed in a bloody manner, because all the hierarchy was thrown in prison or driven by force into Orthodoxy. And such a grave offense still triumphs. The Catholic Ukrainians, who had sacrificed mountains of bodies and shed rivers of blood for the Catholic faith and their fidelity to the Holy See, even now are undergoing a very terrible persecution, but what is worse, they are defended by no one. From the beginning of history, I don’t know of any people who have suffered as much as Ukrainians.

They, who were million, because of battles, raids, starvation, and religious persecution, lost ten million people from the beginning of the First World War. The soviet regime since long ago has put an end to our activity, and all our bishops have been suppressed.

Our Catholic faith, prohibited for making any celebration of our liturgy and administering the Sacraments, must descend into the catacombs. Thousands of thousands of faithful, priests and bishops have been thrown in prison and deported to the polar regions of Siberia. Now, however, because of diplomatic negotiations, the Ukrainian Catholics, who as martyrs and confessors suffered so much and so many things, are put aside like fastidious witnesses of past evils.

In recent letters and communications, our faithful lament «why have we suffered so much?» Where is justice to be found? For the ecclesiastic diplomacy, we have been considered a impediment sea. Cardinal Slipyj does not do anything for his church; and what can he do? An intercession was made by the Vatican on behalf of the Latin Catholics, but the six million faithful Ukrainians who have suffered religious persecution have been ignored.

When the Muscovite patriarch, Pimen, in an electoral synod clearly declared that the union of Brest was annulled, not one of the Vatican delegates present protested.

The creation of an Ukrainian Patriarchate, proposed during the second Vatican Council, has been denied. The delegation of the Basilian sisters from Ukraine was not admitted to the general chapter. Bishops and priests are converted to the Latin rite. It is amazing that the Soviets have raised a very high voice against colonialism while they themselves oppress their people. In the synod we also heard about the diabolic manners of exterminating the defeated nations, and about the evils that the Poles have suffered because of the same oppressors. From the bottom of our hearts we must have sympathy for them. And yet, in no way has it been impeded that in the communist and Catholic Poland half a million of Ukrainians have been deprived of their most basic rights, expelled from their domiciles and indeed they cannot even call themselves Ukrainians. «Leben and leben lassen,» to live and let live, it is a supreme law.

Three dioceses of ours in Poland have been without a bishop for 30 years, and not even an auxiliary bishop has been installed; and not one Ukrainian priest has been admitted to this synod.

On the other hand, the Ukrainian Orthodox have four bishops in Poland, and are to receive three more. Therefore our people complain that they lost everything, the rite and the discipline, while the Orthodox have kept everything.

In Czechoslovakia the diocese of Priashiv, which was Ukrainian, has been lost.

One of the most eminent cardinals who reads openly and sincerely that part of the history of our church, has admitted that it is astonishing, that such a people, who have been treated so badly and unjustly, have nevertheless remained Catholic.

And to you, venerable fathers, oriental things are exotic! I put an end to my speech so that the church of the silence may not talk too much. Finally, a powerful voice of the synod has come up in favor and in defense of those who underwent persecution and yet continued to fight between life and death and brought in new strength in order to persevere up to the final victory. «Pereat mundus, maneta iusticia». For let the world perish, but let justice survive.

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