Ukrainian Catholic intellectuals demand a Patriarchate

The Council of the National Federation of Societies of Ukrainian Catholic Intellectuals «OBNOVA» has issued a memorandum concerning the current status of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The memorandum, written in Latin, was sent on September 11, 1974 in the form of a personal letter to the presidents of the various Conferences of Bishops.

«OBNOVA» is a founding member of the PAX ROMANA Federation and by virtue of that fact it constitutes the only free Ukrainian representation in the United Nations. The text of the memorandum is reprinted below in English translation.

We are requesting your support to have the Holy See implement the Decree on the Eastern Catholic Churches as it applies to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The present status has evolved in the following way:

From September 29 to October 4, 1969.seventeen Ukrainian Catholic bishops held an Archiepiscopal Synod in Rome, presided over by His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Slipyj, Archbishop Major, and proclaimed a patriarchal system in the Ukrainian Catholic Church. At the same time they requested the Holy Father to elevate our Archiepiscopate Major to the rank of Patriarchate of Kiev and Halych. This decision is based on the rights and privileges of the Metropolitanate of Kiev and Halych, recognized by the Holy See in the documents of the Union of Brest (1596, Magnus Dominus and Decet Romanum Pontificem, Clement VIII). It is moreover in conformity with the Decree on Eastern Catholic Churches, promulgated by the Vatican Council in 1964:

«This sacred Synod… solemnly declares that the Churches of the East, as much as those of the West, fully enjoy the right, and are in duty bound, to rule themselves. Each should do so according to its proper and individual procedures… (Art. 5).»

«By the name Eastern Patriarch is meant the bishop who has jurisdiction over all bishops, clergy, and people of his own territory or rite… Wherever an Ordinary of any rite is appointed outside the territorial bounds of its patriarchate of the rite… (Art. 7).»

«This sacred Synod, therefore, decrees that their rights and privileges should be reestablished in accord with the ancient traditions of each Church and the decrees of the ecumenical Synod… (Art. 9).»

«What has been said of Patriarchs applies as well… to major archbishops, who preside over the whole of some individual Church or rite (Art. 10).»

«Inasmuch as the patriarchal office is a traditional form of government in the Eastern Church, this Sacred and Ecumenical Council earnestly desires that where needed, new patriarchates should be erected. The establishment of such is reserved to an ecumenical Synod or to the Roman Pontiff (Art. 11).»

In 1971 the Ukrainian Catholic bishops convoked another synod, during which they elected, from among themselves, a permanent Synod of five bishops with the Archbishop Major, Joseph Cardinal Slipyj, as their chairman. In the sixth Synod held in 1973 the Constitution of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was approved and signed; it was subsequently presented to the Holy Father during an audience in November of the same year.

2. The Roman Curia, especially the Sacred Congregation for Oriental Churches, is unwilling to recognize the decisions of our Archiepiscopal Synods, considering them as nonbinding Episcopal Conferences. The Curia moreover rejected, in the name of the Holy Father and with his approval, this petition of all the Ukrainian bishops of the free world that the Patriarchate of Kiev and Halych be erected. In a letter sent by His Eminence, Maximilian Cardinal Furstenberg, to his Eminence, Joseph Cardinal Slipyj, canonical, ecumenical, pastoral reasons were cited for this negative response. On July 7, 1971, the Holy Father himself, in a letter to Joseph Cardinal Slipyj, noted the same reasons:

«… 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 permit us to satisfy the wishes and desires of the Ukrainian Catholic hierarchy.»

The Ukrainian Catholic laymen, especially those involved in Ukrainian studies, have been actively supporting the creation of the Ukrainian Patriarchate for many years, ever since Archbishop Major Joseph Slipyj made such a proposal on October 11, 1963 at the Vatican Council.

It seems to us that the principal reasons for the negative attitude of the Holy See toward the creation of the Patriarchate of Kiev and Halych are neither pastoral, nor canonical, nor historical but ecumenical and political. As a matter of fact, the possibility of such a Patriarchate being created has occasioned, we are sure, frequent visits in recent years on the part of the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and of the Soviet Union, as they tried to pressure the Holy See against such a decision: the establishment of a Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate would finally liberate the Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate from Moscow influence and the Russification of the Ukraine. The Russification of the Ukrainian Church is the present policy of the Kremlin which uses even the Russian Orthodox Church in achieving the Russification of the non-Russian peoples of the Soviet Union. It is our contention, therefore, that the Vatican is yielding to pressure and perhaps even blackmail, exercised by the representatives of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch and the Soviet Union, without regard for justice and truth.

The truth of the matter is that the Soviet Union is dedicated to the destruction of any religion, especially the Catholic faith of any rite. In officially abolishing the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Western and Carpatho-Ukraine in 1945, the Soviet Union was following the example of tsarist Russia which with much bloodshed destroyed the Eastern Rite of the Ukrainian Catholic Church within its borders in the years 1772-94, 1839 and 1875.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church has had thousands of martyrs, both clergy and laity, during the four merciless persecutions conducted by the Tsaristand Soviet leaders. The most recent persecution, begun in 1939, is still being carried on today. Thousands of clergy, religious and laity, were arrested and deported to Soviet concentration camps in 1945 and in the subsequent years. As a result of this imprisonment, all of our bishops died with the exception of the Metropolitan Joseph Slipyj, who suffered almost 18 years for the Catholic Church and out of fidelity to the Holly See. From his present residence in the Vatican he remains the principal spokesman for the patriarchal rights of our Church.

Obviously, a friendly pact between the Holy See and the Soviet Union is impossible because of ideological differences, which even the Vatican politicians cannot change. With the destruction of the Catholic Church in Russia, there is no basis for bargaining. The Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, spreading its influence over Catholic territories after World War II and enjoying the role of the «Third Rome» has no need of the «First Rome.» Thus the ecumenical considerations of the Vatican policy are without foundation.

We, Ukrainian Catholics, the largest Eastern Rite Catholic community in the world, have the right to a patriarchal system for our Church and even more so since the basic law of the Church grants it to us. A 379 year history of our communion with the Holy See, countless martyrs for the Catholic faith in the Ukraine, the existence of an underground Church and hierarchy in present-day Ukraine, the flourishing condition of sixteen Ukrainian Catholic dioceses or exarchates throughout the free world, and the presence of our Archbishop Major, Cardinal Slipyj, Confessor of the faith, fully warrant a decision in our favor.

The Council of National Federation of the Societies of Ukrainian Catholic intellectuals «OBNOVA» will do everything possible, within law and order to attain our goal: an administration, ecclesiastical autonomy within the structure of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In summary, we are only asking for what by law and justice is due to our Church.

We kindly request that your try to understand our plea and to grant it favorable support at the forthcoming Papal Synod of Bishops in Rome or at any other occasion that may arise.

With deepest respects we humbly submit our plea in Christ.


Roman Danylewycz, President
Dr. Ewhen Perejma, Secretary
Dr. Wolodymyr Baczynskyj, Charter Member

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