Ukrainian catholics

The Tablet

19 February 1977

From Professor Vasyl Markus

Sir: Your comments on the «Ukrainian troubles» published in The Tablet (29 January, 1977) do not reflect accurately the situation of the Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain. The three priests who were sent from Rome in Jaunary, with the blessing of Cardinal Slipyj, to serve the faithful over the Christmas season, did not «interfere with pastoral work of local Ukrainian clerge,» and never intended to do so. The Ukrainian Bishop of Great Britain. Bishop Augustine Hornyak, created a situation in which thousands of faithful remained without normal pastoral care.

Cardinal Slipyj, together with the priests from Rome (two of them having served for over 20 years in Britain), felt it in conscience to be their pastoral duty not to leave the abandoned and often ostracised people without spiritual care during the festive season. There was no intention, to my knowledge, to by pass the bishop’s authority. One of them Fr. Mykola Matychak, former pastor of St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Edinburgh, visited Bishop Hornyak and informed him about the arrival of the priests at the request of many communitis. Fr. Matychak had offered their services to the bishop for celebration masses, hearing confessions and so forth during the busy liturgical season. These the bishop declined.

Bishop Hornyak’s declaratioin that «the priests incurred automatic suspensions,» and that «the confessions they have heard are invalid and their masses are the source of scandal» (Catholic Herald, 28 January 1977), cannot but surprise and sadden any good intentioned Catholic in our times. How can a dedicated priest, in good standing, be declared suspended with his priestly functions invalidated by the administrative fiar of bishop? Is it not because of such autocratic church administrators that hte Catholic Church suffered so many misgivings in the past? I wonder how the British ecumenists will react to such excessive legalism, especially now when there are strong efforts to bring Christians closer in the spirit of love.

In addition it could be said that Bishop Hornyak’s statement does injustice to the Ukrainian spiritual leader. Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, whom the bishop accuses by implication of having established separate parishes in America. Being an active member of one of the three parishes (to which the bishop’s statement refers). I submit that these parishes were set up by the parishioners themselves on account of the local difficulties (change of calendar, and so on), and were not initiated by the cardinal. The question of the status of those parishes has been constructively resolved or is on the way to being resolved by the local Ukrainian bishops. It is my prayerful hope that Bishop Hornyar too will find the courage and wisdom to solve peacefully and in charity the difficulties with his faithful which have by recent events been further aggrevated.

Loyola University of Chicago.
Rome Centere.
Via Trionfale, 8062 00135 ROME
Vasyl Markus

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 12 March 1977

From Vr. Wasyl Borecky

Sir: The letter from Professor Vasyl Marcus published in The Tablet (19 February), written in an attempt of detail one of the many issues that have been causing friction within the Ukrainian Catholic community, rather raises difficulties instead of removing them. It is with great respect that one has here to allude to the fact that the most venerable of our Ukrainian hierarchs on more than one occasion attempted to use jurisdiction outside his own ecclesiastical territory — Ukraine. In spite of the Vatican’s intervention dated 26 July 1976, attributing ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain to the apostolic exarch, Bishop Augustine Hornyak, to the exclusion of all over Ukrainian Catholic authority, Cardinal Slipyj once again sent three priests to Ukrainian parishes in Great Britain during the last Christmas season. The automatic suspension (a divinis) was incurred because the innvited «missionaries» exercised priestly functions, especially hearing confessions, which first require the authorisation of the local bishop. There can be no doubt that the priests intended to by-pass the local bishop’s jurisdiction. Their chief argument was that they had the necessary authorisation from Cardinal Slipyj. However, the fact is that his (the cardinal’s) jurisdiction, by canon law and the conciliar decree (Eastern Catholic Churches, n. 9), is restricted to the territorial bounds of Ukraine. Therefore, the only person lawfully in a position to give authorisation was Bishop Hornyak. Consequently, this latest move may be regarded as Cardinal Slipyj’s effort to assert his jurisdiction over the Ukrainian exarchate and to establish separate «patriarchal» parishes in Great Britain.

In his exceptionally disrespectful letter Professor Markus attributed the Ukrainian troubles to Bishop Hornyak by aaleging that he (the bishop) «created a situation in which thousands of faithful remained without normal pastoral care.» No accusation could be more unjust. It is in no way applicable to Bishop Hornyak who looks after the spiritual welfare of his faithful to the best of his power. However, there are those who, because of their rebelliousness, refuse to avail themselves of Bishop Hornyak’s spiritual care, but this is certainly not his fault.

In fact the cause of all the trouble was the Holy Year pilgrimage in 1975 in Rome. At that time a comparatively small proportion of the Ukrainian community, which had flocked together to represent the whole Ukrainian Catholic Church, «proclaimed» the 83-year-old Cardinal Slipyj its first patriarch in defiance of Pope Paul’s negative answer to a petition for the creation of a patriarchate from the Ukrainian-rite bishop’s. This unprecedented events was the opening of campaign already carefully thought out by the political activists. It is well known that Professor Markus was among the most zealous promoters of such a revolutionary move to settle ecclesiastical affairs without the supreme authority. Since that time the political activists have done their utmost to stir up rebellion among the faithful, especially against Bishop Hornyak who, in his judgment, perceived that the path in which they were engaged could lead only to divison and discord, with its incalculable consequences. They have used practically any method in pressing Bishop Hornyak to accept their conviction of the existence of the Ukrainian patriarchate, «created» by the will of the people. Bishop Hornyak has repeatedly proclaimed himself in favour of f Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate, but with the proviso that it must be established only by the competent authority, by the Holy Father or by an ecumenical council.

21 Bassett Road London W10
Wasyl Borecky