Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, known as the “spiritual father” of Ukraine, has died aged 84.

Cardinal Husar had inherited a Church “on its knees, suffering post-traumatic shock”, according to Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris.

In a post-Soviet era where leadership often meant “a compulsive passion” for money and power, “he lived in exemplary simplicity”, Bishop Gudziak said.

“In Ukrainian folklore, a blind elder is considered a sage,” the bishop said. “He was the wise man of the country, a real father whose embrace, word, warm smile and sense of humour – often self-deprecating – gave people a sense of joy and peace.” He was fluent in five languages, Bishop Gudziak said, “and he could joke in all of them”.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who succeeded Cardinal Husar as Archbishop of Kiev-Halych and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, cried as he spoke to reporters about the cardinal’s death. “He was the spiritual father of the Ukrainian people, and today, in one moment, we became orphans,” Archbishop Shevchuk said.

Asked when Cardinal Husar’s Cause would open, Archbishop Shevchuk replied that everyone who met him saw the beauty of his holiness, but that the canonisation process required prayer and time. Standard Vatican rules require a waiting period of five years.

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