Saturday, February 22, 2003
Twelve years after regaining
independence the biggest problem
still facing Ukraine is the creation of a national identity, the head
of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church said yesterday.
Speaking after a special service at the St.
Michael's Church in the
east end of Montreal, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar said one of the
missions of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church is to work on
forging this identity and healing the wounds left by 70 years of Soviet
rule and centuries of religious schisms.
Husar is in Montreal as part of an 18-day visit to the 500,000-strong
Ukrainian Catholic community in Canada.
There is a worrying tendency toward regionalism in Ukraine, said
Husar, who is the leader of world's 5 million Ukrainian Greco-Catholics.
Ukrainian society is also divided by faith. Most Ukrainians are, at
least nominally, followers of the Orthodox faith. But there are three
rival Orthodox churches in the country.
The Greco-Catholics, who are in full communion with the Roman
Catholic Church but have maintained the Byzantine rites and canonical
laws, are a large minority.
The members of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church were among the
most persecuted minorities in the Soviet Union.
The church was banned, driven underground and thousands of its
members shot or imprisoned in labour camps in Siberia.
"We will do our share to underline unity," Husar said, admitting,
however, that to date relations with the Orthodox churches are not
Husar said that in the continuing transition from a totalitarian system
that existed in the Soviet Union to a form of democracy the church must
be diligent in upholding a just social system and the rule of law.
The contribution of diaspora Ukrainians who have lived in democratic
societies is particularly important, Husar said.
Addressing about 80 faithful who attended the service in St. Michael's,
Husar urged his flock to remember the sacrifice of the thousands who
died in Soviet concentration camps but never renounced their faith.
These martyrs are perhaps one of the greatest spiritual treasures that
the church has today, he said.
Copyright 2003 Montreal Gazette