Ukrainian Church persists in USSR

Pittsburyn Catholic, Friday, March 18, 1977 — Page 5 PROFESSOR SA YS

LONDON (NC) — The persistence of an underground Ukrainian-rite Catholic Church in the Soviet Union has been reported here.

The report by Bohan R. Bociurkiw appeared in the spring 1977 issue of Religion in Communist Lands, quarterly published by Keston College, the center for the study of religion and Communism near here.

The Ukrainian-rite Church «still retains the loyalty of the majority of believers in the oblasts (states) of Lvov, Ternopol, and Ivano-Frankovsk, and has a sizeable following in the Transcarpathian oblast» in the Ukrainian S.S.R. 30 years aftr it was forcibly dissolved and absorbed into the Orthodox Church, wrote Bociurkiw, who teaches at Carleton University, Ottawa.

There is also a growing number of Ukrainian-rite Catholics in the traditionally Orthodox areas of the eastern Ukraine as a result of deportations and migration from the western Ukraine, he noted.

Alongside clergy and laity who conform outwardly and officially belong to the Orthodox Church, Bociurkiw recorded the existence of an underground Ukrainian-rite Catholic church said to include at least 300 to 350 priests headed by three or more secret bishops. There are also said to be an unknown number of younger priests trained and ordained in the underground church who are considered likely to be more activist and militant than the older clergy they are replacing.

Bociurkiw also noted as a marked intensification of Ukrainian-rite activities in the western Ukraine since 1968, possibly connected with the legalization of the Ukrainian-rite in neighboring Czechoslovakia.

He concluded his survey by criticising what he called the Vatican’s silence, the seeming fraternization of its representatives with the persecutors of the Ukrainian-rite, and its negative resonse to demands for greater Ukrainian-rite autonomy.

These, he said, «have embittered and divided Ukrainian Catholics in the West as well as inside USSR, while offering to the Soviet authorities a new propaganda weapon in their continuing attemps to demoralize and destroy the ‘catacomb church’.»

Ukrainian-rite Cardinal Josip Slipyi, major archbishopof Lvov who is living in exile in Rome after years in Soviet prisons, has called for the creation of an independent Ukrainian-rite patriarchate. Pope Paul VI has ruled against his request.