Interview with Bishop Hlib (Lonchyna)
"To serve in accord with the Gospel"
Bishop Hlib (Lonchyna) is here seen in the square outside of St. George's Cathedral in Lviv immediately after his episcopal ordination on 27 February 2002. He is surrounded by his friends from the Faith and Light community in Lviv. Faith and Light brings together the developmentally disabled, their family and friends, for prayer and socializing. Bishop Lonchyna had been the national chaplain for the movement, represented in 7 cities of Ukraine, for 5 years.
Interview with Bishop Hlib (Lonchyna) of UGCC
On February 25, 2002, two days before his episcopal ordination, Fr. Hlib Lonchyna gave an interview to the Religious Information Service of Ukraine.
- Father, what duties and responsibilities will you have as a bishop of the curia of the UGCC?
First of all, as head of the liturgical community, the bishop leads the faithful in prayer, religious services and all spiritual matters. The basic task of the curial bishop is to assist the head of the church. Whenever the patriarch is not able to participate personally, he sends the auxiliary bishop as his representative. In addition, the auxiliary bishop helps the head of the church in managing all pressing affairs concerning the entire UGCC. This includes meeting with people, planning and scheduling events, dealing with correspondence, visiting churches and institutions, and receiving guests.
I have, in addition, some individual duties. His Beatitude Lubomyr Husar wants to entrust me with the spiritual care of Ukrainian immigrants in the countries of southern Europe, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece, where there is no bishop. I will have to get acquainted with the problems Ukrainians face in these countries, visit the local communities, organize ministerial work and take an interest in people's lives.
Another task that lies on my shoulders is the work of the liturgical commission, which includes examining the state of affairs, preparing translations, writing new services, for instance, in honor of the newly proclaimed blesseds, and so on. During the first six months of my service as bishop, first and foremost I need to make all the arrangements regarding accommodations and office space and then get acquainted with the issues I will be responsible for. Only then will I be able to get down to work.
- How can you use your experience from the apostolic nunciature in Kyiv for your episcopal service in the future?
The year and a half that I spent in the nunciature gave me invaluable experience on many levels.
At the ecclesial level, I gained a comprehensive view of the Catholic Church in Ukraine. I accompanied the apostolic nuncio when he was visiting different religious communities in Ukraine. Earlier, I was only aware of the Greek Catholic reality, whereas now I know more about the Latin rite in Ukraine. Even though there are many believers of non-Ukrainian origin, the Roman Catholic Church is not a church for foreigners any longer. It is a church for Ukrainians who want to worship God according to this rite. Therefore, I had an opportunity to learn more about pastoral ministry, as well as the difficulties and obstacles that confront parishioners, priests and bishops of both rites. In many respects, we face similar problems and could learn from each other's mistakes. We could also share our experience, resources, and even facilities.
At the diplomatic level, through my position in the nunciature I met new people and learned more about government, state affairs and international relations. Regarding my work in the office, I have acquired many useful skills, such as keeping files, writing letters in various styles, archiving documents, and so on.
My greatest and most memorable experience, however, was the preparation for the papal visit to Ukraine. I spent most of this time interpreting for the representatives of the Pope and the Ukrainian government. In addition, I worked fruitfully with separate delegations, church representatives, journalists and others. Now that I will be serving as bishop, I can hardly overestimate this experience, because I will have to meet people of different backgrounds and classes of society and try my best to resolve new problems.
- Over the last few years there have been many complaints that direct communication between parishioners and priests and the higher authorities of the church has been substantially hampered, which has had a negative impact on church life. What is a possible solution to this problem?
For any social or church organization, it is very important to work out the rules and establish the procedure of work. It is necessary to know who is to be assigned to consider a case, as well as who is to be the first to do it and who makes the final decision. After that, one just has to follow the procedure. Even if we do so, there are obviously going to be shortcomings. Therefore amendments and improvements are always indispensable. It is essential that the faithful learn how to make their requests in writing and touch upon a separate problem in a separate letter, rather than mixing everything. This skill will help them to express their needs more clearly and precisely, so that the head of the church or the consistory workers can easily understand a problem. It will allow the latter to attend to the matter swiftly and consequently make a correct decision. If we do not get a written request, the problem remains abstract and unclear and nobody can be assigned to see to it. Therefore, I strongly intend to work according to the above-mentioned principles.
One should also bear in mind that all responsibilities need to be divided. Bishop Ihor Vozniak will be in charge of the parishes that belong to the Lviv archeparchy. And I will be responsible for the affairs of the patriarchal curia.
- Today, there are many cases when parishioners complain about their greedy pastors, saying that even bishops have little influence on them. What possible ways of strengthening the church authority do you see?
One of the bishop's major tasks is to raise the qualifications of priests. This should not surprise anyone, since social institutions are governed by the same principle. A hospital director, for instance, is going to make sure that his personnel increase their knowledge and improve their qualifications. When we talk about the church, we are not just talking about the academic or professional level. Here we are dealing with souls, and the souls of priests are included. The methodology of this work, though drawing upon human knowledge, should originate with the Gospel. And in everything it should follow the Teacher, who came to serve and sacrifice his life for the people, teaching them and calling them to conversion. You cannot achieve this by a system of commands. The person should change his behavior and open his heart to the grace of God. When those responsible for human souls on earth serve others in accord with the Gospel and positively influence the person's good will, they will fulfill their mission to be pastors and then their authority will be effortlessly confirmed.
Interview conducted in Lviv, 28 February 2002
by Taras HRYNCHYSHYN