Ukrainians in Britain threatened by schism

Bishop accuses Cardinal of inciting rebels against Holy See

by Christopher Howse

A SCHISM faces the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Britain unless Cardinal Joseph Slipyj, the exiled Archbishop of Lviv, directs his supporters to return to obedience to the Pope, according to Bishop Augustine Hornyak, head of the church in Britain. Bishop Hornyak has issued a strong appeal in a pastoral letter to Ukrainians in Britain who reject his authority to return to unity and has asked Cardinal Slipyj to support him before it is too late.

The conflict arises from a movement to have Cardinal Slipyj declared Patriarch of the Ukrainian rite. The cardinal himself has been using the title for some years. In England, his supporters deny the jurisdiction of all who disallow the claim, which has been turned down by successive Popes. Violent clashes have recurred in Ukrainian churches in Britain during the last ten years, and on one occasion Bishop Hornyak himself was hit in the face by his opponents.

It seemed that the split was on the way to solution when Ukrainian bishops from all over the world met at an extraordinary Synod called by Pope John Paul ІІ. But in the year since the synod, divisions have continued in Britain and at least two bishops abroad recognize Cardinal Slipyj’s claims.

To complicate matters, Cardinal Slipyj is a personal hero of many Ukrainian Catholics, having spent 18 years in Soviet prisons before his exile. He will be 90 next month and the Vatican is unwilling to do anything which could look like further persecution of a martyr.

Two Ukrainian priests who are under suspension are working full time in Britain, encouraging lay people to support the Slipyj-party, working through Ukrainian cultural centers. At Christmas time they were joined by three other priests opposed to the decision by the Holy See on the Patriarchal claim.

Bishop Hornyak said this week that he feared that the priests’ actions was causing scandal among the faithful, some of whom were being incited to hatred against him and clergy loyal to him. Moreover the rebel priests were conducting marriages which would be invalid because of their suspension under canon law.

The bishop, who is Apostolic Exarch for Ukrainians throughout Britain, said that adherents of the rebel cause may now number more than half Ukrainian-rite Catholics, though some acted out of fear of insults and ostracisation.

Bishop Hornyak was concerned that if Cardinal Slipyj were to die soon he would leave behind him a de facto schism which would be hard to heal.

In the latest issue of newsletter of the Apostolic Exarchate a long article outlines the establish­ment of the split, for the benefit of younger members of the church. It says: “The rebellious elements in England have not only left the Church but have attempted even to take over its possessions. They are guided in this previously unheard of action by the political party line. This party line takes its origin from the so called revolutionary Nationalists, who came into existence in Ukraine and in the 50s infiltrated Ukrainian immigration in England and elsewhere in diaspora. Recently they took over the control over the Ukrainian Congress in the USA.

“Ever since Cardinal Slipyj began to fraternize with this political faction, led by Jaroslav Stetzko, the techniques of extremist politics have entered the sphere of the Church’s life”.

The newsletter claims that the rebels are being sent money by Cardinal Slipyj. “For the past five years the splinter group has withheld their Church dues. Two of our parish priests in Lancashire have given in to the pressure, so as to become as it were hostages; it is the splinter group that directs their actions.”

No. 4994 January 29, 1982

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