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Ukrainian Catholic Church elects 40-year-old as leader

By on Monday, 28 March 2011

Archbishop Shevchuk is installed at the Cathedral of the Holy Resurrection of Christ in Kiev (CNS photo/Kon stantin Chernichkin, Reuters)

Archbishop Shevchuk is installed at the Cathedral of the Holy Resurrection of Christ in Kiev (CNS photo/Kon stantin Chernichkin, Reuters)

The Ukrainian Catholic Church has elected its youngest bishop to succeed Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev-Halych, who retired last month.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, 40, apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian Catholic Diocese of the Protection of the Mother of God in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was elected during a five-day synod of bishops in Lviv. His election was confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Shevchuk, a moral theologian, was to be enthroned as major archbishop yesterday during ceremonies at the Cathedral of the Holy Resurrection of Christ in Kiev.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern churches in full communion with Rome, and it is pivotal in ecumenical relations.

Born at Stryi, near Lviv, May 5, 1970, the new archbishop was ordained to the priesthood in June 1994 by Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, then the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s leader. He later obtained a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St Thomas of Aquinas in Rome.

Archbishop Shevchuk served as prefect and vice rector of Holy Spirit Seminary – now the Ukrainian Catholic University – in Lviv between 1999 and 2002. He served as personal secretary to Cardinal Husar from 2002 to 2005. He returned to the university as rector in 2007. Subsequently, he was appointed auxiliary bishop for the Buenos Aires-based diocese in January 2009 and became apostolic administrator in April 2010.

In an interview with the Livyi Bereh daily newspaper, Cardinal Husar said his successor’s tasks would include “moralising public life and bringing God into people’s lives” as well as encouraging steps to combat corruption through education.

“Everywhere – here in Ukraine, in Europe, in North and South America – our Church has things to do, and it’s necessary to work on them,” said the 78-year-old cardinal, who also ministered in the United States before returning to his native Ukraine as a bishop in 1994.

“If all the churches worked and trained the people, there would be change,” he said. “The main task is to make the Church a bigger part of our lives, so that people feel its apostleship and the need for sanctification.”

Catholics make up a 10th of the Ukrainian population, which totals about 50 million. About a third of Ukrainians belong to the country’s three Orthodox denominations.

When Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Catholic Church was forcibly united with the Russian Orthodox Church and became illegal. During 45 years under Communist rule, the push for Ukrainian independence and the demand for religious freedom for Ukrainian Catholics often went hand in hand. The growth of Ukrainian democracy after independence in 1991 occurred at the same time as the Church was being rebuilt.

However, the return of religious freedom meant that many Christians who were worshipping as Orthodox decided to return to their Ukrainian Catholic roots. Church properties that had been confiscated by the government or given by the government to the Orthodox were re-claimed by Ukrainian Catholics in situations that occasionally included violence between Catholics and Orthodox.

Meanwhile, the head of Ukraine’s smaller Latin-rite Catholic Church, Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv, told KAI, the Catholic information agency in Poland, he welcomed Archbishop Shevchuk’s appointment with “joy and understanding”. He said the new Church leader knew Ukraine’s problems well and was also “a man of high culture and very good with contacts”.

  • Byza7


    Let me remind you that the Orthodox Christian Church has always been “catholic”. Why would any one think that the word “catholic” is not restircted to the Western church only? By the way, the original (pre filoque innovation) Nicene was written in Greek with one font size and no spaces between the words. Therefore, any response to this post with the defense of a capital “C” is irellevant to the historical context that you have chosen to ignore.

    “Orthodox denominations” is another example of a verbal distortion. Just because they are of different jurisdictions doesn’t give a free pass to the misuse of the “denomation” word usage to those of the true/correct faith.

    Lastly, please study the historical Christian history that the ORIGINAL faith was “collegiate” as it has been well documented by the Seven Ecumenical Councils. I find it sad that western revisionism alive and well within the context of your post.

  • Lee

    The original church leadership was not collegiate or are you trying to say the Passage from St Matthew’s 16:13-19 alongside the notion of Apostolic Succession is wrong. One must remember that Peter was one of the ‘least’ good (if I can use such a word) of the disciples but yet he was placed with such responsibility. Why ? because as Jesus reminds us in Mark 9:35 that he who desires to be first must be the last. Wasn’t it so with Peter ? Not point scoring neither but you understand the filoque clause as an innovation ? So what do you understand the whole rite of Constantinople to be then when it developed out of all the rites as the last having transformed significantly from the Antiochiean rite from thence it comes ?
    The reason why the author also uses ‘denominations’ is because some Orthodox churches do not recognize each other whilst some do. Examples been ROCOR, OCA and many others. Even the majority of the Patriarchial churches agree, they are independent to such a degree that their ‘agreements’ could be overturned fairly quick thus creating ‘new popes’ which is exactly what happened in Russia when the Metropolitan of Moscow declared ‘itself’ a Patriarch, not the Patriarch of Constantinople but the Russian Church itself. Doesn’t sound like one denomination to me, even though the Patriarchate eventually had to acquiescence for political reasons and economical reasons.
    Also, please show me where this ‘collegiality’ is in the Seven Councils and then we will have a discussion on that.

  • Thomas M.P>

    The largest Eastern Catholic Church, the Ukranian Church, has got a new Shepherd. On the first of April 2011, the second largest Eastern Church has lost its leader in this world ( Cardinal and Major Archbishop Varkey Vithayathil of the Syro_Malabars) to be united with his Master the Lord Jesus. The most talked about future Major Archbishop is Mar Andrews Thazhath, but he is too young as of now. The next in line are Mar Punnakkottil or Mar Valiyamattom, but the faithful Catholics of the Syro-Malabar Church are not in much favour of these two. The people’s favourites are three retired bishops who should be reinstated to lead the Syro-Malabar Church: They are: Mar Jacob Thoomkuzhy, the silent builder, Mar Gregory Karotemprel, the favourite of the pravasis (migrants) or Mar Joseph Powathil, the most vibrant one. Powathil is hated by the Communist Government of Kerala. Yet the faithful want him.Otherwise, Mar Jacob Thoomkuzhy or Mar Gregory Karotemprel as the next Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India the second largest Eastern Church. Ultimately, the Lord God decides. And let God’s will be done.

  • orthodox_md

    It is entirely inappropriate to use the word denominations. And rather than engage in verbal sparring here, I recommend Fr. Aidan Nichol’s excellent little book, Rome and the Eastern Churches. The complexities you mention in no way excuse the use of the word, and Fr. Nichols addresses those complexities very well.