The early Spring of 1971 saw an influx of Ukrainians into Rome. The first to arrive was our own Metropolitan Ambrose Senyshyn. He was followed by a nine-member delegation composed of representatives of the clergy Society of Saint Andrew, the Society for the Promotion of the Patriarchal System for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Friends of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Rome, and the Ad Hoc Student Committee for the Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate0 Then came a four-member delegation representing the World Congress of Free Ukrainians.
What brought all these people to Rome?
Speaking for the nine-member delegation, it can definitely be said that it made the trip out of concern for the future of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, concern for the growing credibility gap between Vatican words and deeds created by post Vatican II Curial policies.
The Decree on Catholic Eastern Churches accepted by Vatican Council II and promulgated by Pope Paul VI on December 21, 1964, proclaims “high esteem” for the traditions of the Eastern Churches. It recognizes that the “Churches of the East, as much as those of the West, have a full right and are in duty bound to rule themselves, each in accordance with its own established disciplines” (5); exhorts those who have fallen away from the traditions of their Church “to take steps to return” to these (6); insists on the reestablishment of the rights and privileges of the Eastern Catholic Churches — those recognized them “in time of union between East and West”(9); rules that the “patriarchs with their synods are the highest authority for all business of the patriarchate” (9); and then states that what has been said of the patriarchs is “valid” also in respect to major-archbishops (10).
Earlier, December 23, 1963, the Apostolic See recognized the Metropolitan of Lviv, Archbishop Joseph Slipyj, as Major-Archbishop. Being the only Major-Archbishop in the entire Catholic Church, it is obvious from article 10 of this decree that Major-Archbishop Joseph Slipyj has patriarchal rights. He began to exercise them. In time he convoked the Fourth Archiepiscopal Synod of Ukrainian Catholic Bishops. It met in Rome from September 29 through October 4, 1969. All “but one of the Ukrainian Catholic bishops of the world attended it. The absentee was Metropolitan Ambrose Senyshyn of Philadelphia. This synod accepted the synodal system of administration for the Ukrainian Catholic Church and petitioned the Holy Father to elevate the status of Major-Archbishop Joseph to that of a Patriarch. All present signed this petition. There is no proof that the absentee from the synod ever added his signature to this petition though efforts have been made to convey this impression.
Despite the reassertion by Vatican Council II of the rights the Ukrainian Catholic Church possessed when it reestablished its affiliation with Rome in the Union of Brest in 1596, the Sacred Congregation for Eastern Churches is making constant efforts to maintain administrative control over this Church. It made an effort to invalidate the October 1969 Synod of our bishops. The most recent violation of the rights of our church is the method of the nomination of Monsignor John Stock as auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia. The nomination was made without knowledge, let alone the consent, of the Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, beyond the synod of our bishops. His Beatitude Major-Archbishop Joseph Cardinal Slipyj was not even granted the courtesy of notification of it from official Vatican spokesmen. He learned about it from the newspapers as did the average layman. Such a usurpation of the rights of our Church and violation of the dignity of our Confessor of the Faith is highly demoralizing. It is intolerable. Coming on the heels of Archbishop Agostino Casaroli’s trip to Moscow during which he was reported defending the rights of the Roman Catholics in Lithuania, Polish Catholics in Lviv and Odessa in Ukraine but maintaining silence about the rights of approximately five million Ukrainian Catholics in Ukraine, the method of the recent nomination was interpreted as proof of the rumored Vatican-Moscow agreement to lay the Ukrainian Catholic Church on the sacrificial block for the promulgation of a Vatican- Moscow dialogue in the interest of some indefinite “higher cause”.
Fellow Ukrainian Catholics, on its native territories our Church has been legally liquidated. Those remaining in the Silent Church of The Modern Catacombs are persecuted. In the non-communist world this Church is exposed to the dangers of assimilation because it lacks an integrated administrative system of its owne It suffers from the absence of a patriarchal system of administration. In the Western Church the principle of collegiality has been fostered in the post Vatican II era as an innovation. To the Eastern Churches, our Church among them, this principle is a tradition the promulgation of which assures the survival of the particular Church and the negation of which spells its doom. If you are not interested in defending the rights of your Church because you are blinded by a misconception of the principle of Universality, then remember that the motto of the Universal Church is “Unity in diversity, equality for ali. Be a Catholic in the best sense of the word. Join our efforts in the promulgation of a patriarchal system for the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Its establishment will remove the credibility gap between Vatican promises and policies.
Public Relations Department, Society for the Promotion of the Patriarchal System for the Ukrainian Catholic Church