We have gathered in the Eternal City to celebrate the Jubilees of His Beatitude, Josyf Slipyj, a heroic man of God, who, strengthened by the Spirit of the Gospel, boldly set forth to realize the dreams, the vision that were his patrimony.
Your Beatitude! You remined faithful to these visions even though the barriers seemed insurmountable. You witnessed the destruction of your bishops, clergy, religious and faithful. You, yourself, were not spared physical and moral torture. These atrocities did not take place in a foreign prison but in your own city of Kiev where the Soviet occupants subjected you to torture and hardships, the scars of which you still bear.
Yet the vision remained and grew stronger for in one of your secret pastoral letters from Siberia, you wrote:
«Brothers and Sisters God is with us here in distant Siberia. God is and will be with you everywhere, in your homes, your cities, and villages. God is with you in your difficult service on the collective farms …. Believe in Him alone, stand firm in the faith of your fathers, be faithful to your fatherland, your Church, your homes, your language, and God’s truth. Do not fear persecution, sacrifice, and suffering, for it is all for our nation and for Christ, Our Lord and God …. The day is not far off, the forces of evil will fall and no trace of them will be left; our Church and Christian faith will endure forever and with them will be eternal life and glory and the memory of our holy martyrs who today defend and suffer for them.»
Such pastoral letters filled with hope and commitment were written by St. Ignatius and St. Cyprian, who gave their lives for Christ, just as you were ready to do at all times.
By the grace of God and through the efforts of our great and dearly beloved Pope John XXIII, from near death in Mordovia, you came to the Eternal City, Rome, for the Vatican Council, to bear witness to our Christian faith and to unite the Ukrainian Catholics, who as a result of the occupation of their country, were now spread over four continents.
Our Ukrainian people realized that in your person, they had received from God, a man of Divine Providence. Having lived, together with the great intellectuals of our nation, through extremely difficult times, you, our beloved Pastor, meditated upon and realized the reasons for the weaknesses of our Church and Nation. And it was for this reason, that, in the name of our Ukrainian Church, you courageously presented to the Fathers of the Council, the great desire of the Ukrainian people, the desire for a Ukrainian Patriarchate to crown the hierarchical structure of the Ukrainian Church.
Upon coming to Rome, your dreams, vision quickly materialized. You founded the Ukrainian Catholic University in honor of Pope Clement I, who received the crown of martyrdom on Ukrainian soil. We take pride in the fact that our Ukrainian Catholic University, under your leadership, is progressing and has already published a series of valuable works. These works, without doubt, will greatly influence the rebirth of our Church and Nation. The exchange of these works with the great universities and academies of the world will obtain for the Ukrainian disciplines, their rightful place among the intellectual institutions of the world.
In your efforts for the Ukrainian Church and her faithful, you have commenced the erection of the Church of St. Sophia in Rome, the centre of Christianity, just as nine hundred years ago, the Ukrainian King, Jaroslav Mudry, erected a similar edifice in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Thus in the Eternal City there will always stand the Ukrainian Church of. God’s Holy Wisdom, beside which will stand the centre of Ukrainian studies, the Ukrainian Catholic University.
Most notable of all your accomplishments were Your Beatitude’s three trips to the Ukrainian diaspora in the free world. These trips took in every continent on which the Ukrainian faithful live. Exhausted from the thousands of miles travelled on these trips, you never refused to visit the remotest settlement of your flock — sharing with them the magnitude of your vision.
Frequently meeting with heads of state, such as the President of the United States of America, Your Beatitude sought to bring to their attention the suffering of our brethren behind the Iron Curtain. You defended the stand of human rights for everyone in the world on every occasion.
In closing these introductory words, I wish to recall the words of Pope Paul VI, spoken to the Ukrainian pilgrims in Rome on February 25, 1965. Our Holy Father said:
«In elevating the Ukrainian Metropolitan to the dignity of a Cardinal, we wished to testify before the whole Church, before the whole world, that his sufferings, his perseverance and fidelity to the faith of Christ, and his heroism, are a priceless treasure of the Universal Church and they have become a part of history …. Pray God and believe, the Ukrainian nation will not be lost, but will, with God’s help and the wise guidance of your leaders, triumph in glory!»
These are historical words of the Father of Christians. Never before in our history had a Pontiff spoken such prophetic words to a Ukrainian Prelate. Let us thank Divine Providence that has given us such a man of vision. Let us be even more thankful that Divine Providence has brought him forth from captivity, so that he might, through his wise counsel, guide us in the renewal of our Ukrainian Church.
On this glorious occasion of His Beatitudes Jubilees, we honor Your Beatitude as the head of a particular Church — as Patriarch of our people, as a Prince of the Universal Church, as a scholar, a professor and great humanitarian. May God grant you many years….
NA MNOHI LITA — YOUR BEATITUDE