Interview with Cardinal Lubomyr Husar
"Our patriarchate can be, within our unfortunately divided Kyivan Church, a very strong ecumenical instrument that would be leading towards the consciousness of the entire Church, for unity"
Interview with Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Interview conducted in Lviv, 26 January 2004
by Antoine ARJAKOVSKY,
professor at the Ukrainian Catholic University
Antoine Arjakovsky: Your Eminence, in the interview you gave to the magazine 30 Giorni you explain the reasons for the transfer of your Cathedral See from Lviv to Kyiv. Three arguments are: that there are 600,000 Greek Catholics in eastern Ukraine; the history of your church that in 1596 was historically in Kyiv; and that this is the capital of Ukraine and the other religions in Ukraine are also represented in Kyiv. And in the end of the interview, you add an argument: you say that the main reproach against us is that we don't link church and nation. Does this mean that your ecclesiology is more eucharistic than territorial and national?
Lubomyr Husar: “Canonical territory” is a very old principle among Christians. Practically from the beginning it was always stated there should be only one bishop for one territory, which I think is perfectly reasonable. It's very Christian, it's very traditional. It has, however, one defect. Not the idea itself. We have the defect. The idea is perfect: a bishop, who is the father of all the Christians in a particular area, is supposed to take care of all of them no matter what their language, their culture. The assumption is, and the reality was at the beginning of Christian centuries, that all these people have one faith. And the bishop as the good father, without having huge territory but maybe one city territory, a manageable territory, would take care of all of them. But today we cannot apply this principle.
AA: Why not?
LH: Because we are not anymore one Church. We are a divided Church. Let's take the example of Germany . We have Catholics and we have Lutherans. They are very different. Will it be possible for one bishop to take care of all of them? In Eastern Europe today, Orthodox and Greek Catholics are much closer to one another, because, as I see it, we do have one faith. Even though it is frequently said that we do differ in our faith, but I don't think this is true. But, however, the Patriarchate of Moscow, for example, and our Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine differ. We are not anymore one Church. We are two churches, distinct churches. And because of that we do have, practically, two canonical territories. We cannot speak anymore of one canonical territory. Because the difference is so fundamental between us, up to today, that I don't know any one bishop who would be able to take equally care of people who do and who do not have the Pope of Rome as the visible center of the Universal Church . So the application of the old principle does not go.
AA: What would be the ideal situation today?
LH: I speak as a Catholic without wishing to impose my vision on anybody. Even if I belong to the Orthodox, in the sense of Byzantine, tradition, I am, at the same time, in communion with the Bishop of Rome. In this sense I am in eucharistic communion. I want to underline this. I will give you a very concrete example. What does this communion mean? We have in the city of Lviv Cardinal Jaworski , a Latin rite bishop. And I am an Eastern rite bishop. And yet we can concelebrate. Because we are in communion with one another, being in communion with the Bishop of Rome. I share with my Orthodox brother Metropolitan Vladimir of Kyiv the same liturgical, spiritual, theological tradition, and yet we cannot concelebrate. Because we are not in the same communion. This lets us understand that we are not really one Church in each other's eyes. So the application of canonical territory, in this situation of division, is not applicable.
AA: On 29 November 2003 , the Pope received a letter from Patriarch Bartholomew in response to a letter of Cardinal Kasper addressed to Patriarch Alexis. Cardinal Kasper justified the recognition of the [UGCC] patriarchate by the canons that establish the patriarchal law in the Church at the 4 th Council of Chalcedon in 451. Patriarch Bartholomew refuses this approach and invokes the Council of Constantinople of 879-880 and speaks of the inviolability of the limits of patriarchal traditional sees. But the metropolitanate of Kyiv, of which your see is the inheritor, however, signed the act of union with Rome at the Council of Florence in 1439 with Constantinople . And your church, on the contrary to Moscow and Constantinople , has never revoked it. Isn't this the reason of discord with Patriarch Bartholomew, who doesn't accept the possibility for your church to become a patriarchate?
LH: I have great difficulties understanding his argumentation. We have, we had very close relationships with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Because it is through this patriarchate that Christianity officially came into what today is Ukraine . However, his argumentation to me is not very clear. There is not the least doubt that patriarchates in the course of history have been erected, created and recognized in very different ways. The old classical way was that the ecumenical council, one of those original great seven councils, acknowledged the existence of certain patriarchates. This was the first millenium. In the course of the second millenium the situation is very different. And when we come to today it is still more different.
AA: In what sense?
LH: In the course of the second millennium, several patriarchates were established within the Orthodox Church and within the Catholic Church. In the Orthodox Church, Moscow , and more recently Serbian, Romanian, Bulgarian and other patriarchates. They have been established not by an ecumenical council…
AA: …but by a mother church…
LH: …By a mother church, which has acknowledged their existence, but not by ecumenical council, because there was not an ecumenical council in the Orthodox Church in the second millennium. There is a desire to have one, but it has not materialized.
In the Catholic Church, taking the position of the Bishop of Rome, Vatican Council II has said that patriarchates, within the Catholic Church, within the Eastern tradition, the Byzantine tradition, but not exclusively (because there is, for example, the [Syro-] Malabar Church [of India], which is not Byzantine), should be established. Who can establish them? Classically, the ecumenical council. But should we wait for an ecumenical council to be called before a patriarchate can be recognized or erected? Ideally speaking, maybe so. But life goes on and we don't know when the next ecumenical council will take place. This Ecumenical Council (Vatican II) said: “Let there be patriarchates established.” If there is an ecumenical council, it would be competent to do it. But if there is not one and there is need to establish one [a patriarchate], let the Pope do it himself with the mandate of the Ecumenical Council as being the responsible person within the Catholic Church to do such things. It is not something that he is ascribing to himself as if he was an absolute ruler. He is acting within the Church as the one who is responsible, who can do it within the Catholic framework of thinking, having not only his own desire or will, but having behind him the mandate of the Ecumenical Council. And this mandate of the Ecumenical Council has been repeated in the Code of Canon Law. The Pope himself in his very recent apostolic instruction for the bishops speaks again: “Patriarchates should be established.” Because he is interested in doing what the Ecumenical Council has desired and established. So it is not, as somebody may think, an act of human fancy. No, he is working within the framework of the life of churches within which he himself is a very important part.
So, yes, the first five great patriarchates have been established by the ecumenical councils. But so many other existing ones were not. There is maybe one more element to it. I feel that too much is being made of the patriarchate. As if this were something exceptional. To my mind, a patriarchate is a normal form of existence in the Eastern Byzantine tradition. It is simply a development of church structure. And I don't feel that it ought to be overplayed. We don't desire it simply as a prestige or reward for our suffering or our martyrs. We look upon it as a pastoral instrument, and secondly as an ecumenical instrument. Because we feel that our patriarchate can be, within our unfortunately divided Kyivan Church , a very strong ecumenical instrument that would be leading towards the consciousness of the entire Church, for unity. It does not mean that all have to become Greek Catholics. It means that we all have to come to the original unity in which our church was, even though it is a unity that, as it was originally, is also in communion with the successor of Saint Peter.
So the situation is a bit overplayed. We do not look upon it as something extraordinary. According to canon law and according to this latest papal document, it is simply the normal way it ought to be.
The idea of patriarchates for the Western Church has been spoken of during the Second Vatican Council. But I think that the Western Church is not ready for it. Even though we should never forget that the Bishop of Rome, also known as the Pope of Rome, is the Patriarch of the West. And this traditional title has never been cancelled.
AA: On 20 January 2004, Patriarch Alexis declared to the Agency France-Press AFP that in Ukraine “hundreds of thousands of Orthodox believers are a persecuted minority” and there is “expansion of the Greek Catholic Church in the south and the east of Ukraine,” that the majority of Ukrainians will not accept erection of a Greek Catholic patriarchate. So what is your reaction? It is quite tragic that last year Alexis did not recognized the fact that in 1945 the Greek Catholic Church was abolished by the Soviet State with the help of the Russian Orthodox Church. I suppose that it is difficult for you to talk to someone who thirteen years after the end of the Soviet Union still does not recognize the tragedy of your church. How is it possible to have a dialogue with Moscow in these conditions?
LH: The situation is very complex. Let us clarify it step by step. In the 18 th and 19 th centuries (and unfortunately it remained in the 20th century), it was said that you cannot be a true Ukrainian, you cannot be a true Russian, unless you are Orthodox confessionally. And inverted: a true Orthodox is Russian or Ukrainian or Greek, or is Serbian, or somebody else. That means an identification in this sense as if these two concepts were integrally and maybe ontologically connected. Our existence is a denial of this. In the sense that we are Ukrainians, we are Christians, we are of the Eastern tradition, and we also are in communion with the Apostolic See of Rome. That means that being in this communion does not make us less Ukrainian, less Christian, less Orthodox in the sense of the Byzantine tradition. This has always been unthinkable for the Patriarchate of Moscow and for many other Orthodox churches. And I think it is excessive. And that should be overcome.
Secondly, we have the situation of 1946. The Soviet government under a direct order from Stalin liquidates our church. I do not wish to make a general condemnation, because it is for us, who have not been directly in the Soviet system, not easy to understand and to speak from the experience of what it means to be under the Soviet system.
AA: You were born in 1933?
LH: Yes, but I left the Soviet Union in 1944. I didn't live in the worst, darkest years. However, the fact is that the Russian Orthodox Church was used as an instrument in this liquidation and, unfortunately, to some extent, certainly collaborated, willingly or not willingly I do not enter into this. Let God judge. I do not judge because times were very difficult. The facts are, however, such. The Soviet government gave to the Patriarchate of Moscow a great number or churches. It was the only church that was permitted to exist. People who wanted to go to church had to go to the Russian Orthodox Church. And many did go. In 1989, the Soviet government permits the Greek Catholic Church to register again. And then in 1990 and 1991, many of those communities that went to the Russian Orthodox Church said: “There is no need for us anymore. Let us be what we were before, Greek Catholic.” And over one thousand communities registered as Greek Catholic. Then there were difficulties about church buildings. Some of these difficulties have remained up to today.
AA: How many churches are still discussed?
LH: I would say that in western Ukraine there are over 300 localities that are in conflict.
AA: With the Moscow Patriarchate?
LH: Especially with the [Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the] Patriarchate of Kyiv and the [Ukrainian] Autocephalous [Orthodox] Church. There is none with Moscow in the Lviv region, for example. I would say that there are about 25 localities where conflicts are pretty strong.
AA: Can we speak about a religious war?
LH: Absolutely not. I think that to speak about persecutions is very unjust. However, I can understand the Russian Orthodox Church. They were here for 45 years. And when the opportunity came, people went away from them. That means a real pastoral failure. These people have not remained Orthodox. It is a wound for the Russian Orthodox Church which is very difficult to heal.
AA: But is there any hope for mutual re-discovery?
LH: You see, from our part, my immediate predecessor, Cardinal Lubachivsky, proposed to the Russian Orthodox Church that we forgive one another. Our people, even if they have suffered much, even if many of them don't like the word “Orthodox,” have no real hatred against the Russian Orthodox. I myself was celebrating in a locality in which on the same Sunday Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan (head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church) was consecrating a new Orthodox church. There was absolutely no opposition from the Greek Catholics. The people said: “They built it, let them have it.” The conflicts are when there is a church that was ours but is not ours any more. The government has given such a church to the Orthodox of the Patriarchate of Moscow or the Patriarchate of Kyiv and let them keep it. So our attitude is not the desire to fight, to take vengeance. I can speak very freely that our basic attitude is to gladly be friends with Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox. There is real hope. There is a declaration of the Patriarchate of Moscow which has not been sufficiently appreciated. The Patriarch of Moscow, speaking to Christians of Russian tradition in Western Europe, has admitted that the Patriarchate of Moscow during Soviet times did not conduct itself in an exemplary manner but gave in to the government.
AA: When did he say that?
LH: Last year he wrote a letter to émigré Russians who want to establish a Russian metropolitanate in Western Europe depending on the Patriarchate of Moscow. And I think that it is a very interesting thing that he and those around him have realized that it has not always been very good. To me this is a good sign. There is a recognition that in the past, for the reason of human weakness, there has been incorrect conduct which ought to be levelled out. So I do not lose hope that sooner or later the Moscow Patriarchate will realize that nobody is perfect. It paves the road for mutual understanding, for a Christian attitude towards one another.
AA: Do you address the same words of mutual forgiveness of Cardinal Lubachivsky to Patriarch Alexis and to the Russian Church today?
LH: Yes, absolutely. We are always ready, even if they have never wished it up to today, for this act of mutual forgiveness.
AA: I can understand that the believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Vladimir Sabodan, can suppose that, because you are now in Kyiv, you can demand main places of the Orthodox tradition, like the Kyivan Monastery of the Caves, the monastery of Pochaiv, and other churches. They can be afraid of that. Because you are very popular and you have chosen to use Ukrainian as the liturgical language. What kind of guarantees can you give to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church? What are your criteria to say that this church does not belong to you?
LH: There are certain churches, certain sanctuaries, which are national goods, which belong to Ukraine. Our position is this. Somebody has to take care of them. The Greek Catholic Church absolutely does not pretend to take over the Caves or the Pochaiv Monastery. Let the Moscow Patriarchate take care of that. But it is not their property. They are the caretakers of national sanctuaries. These are not sanctuaries that belong to them to the exclusion of others. Why cannot we come there? We cannot buy candles in the Monastery of the Caves? Why are we excluded? We have no pretence to say that it has to be ours. Since they are there, we accept this fact. But let the government not permit the Moscow Patriarchate to privatize these places and say: This is our property. Because it is the property of the Ukrainian nation, of which they are guardians in such a way as to let us and others come to visit and appreciate their spiritual goods.
AA: But a Greek Catholic can freely pray today in the Caves of Kyiv?
LH: Yes, if he is not recognized. But I cannot come into the store and buy candles in the monastery. I will be asked: Are you Greek Catholic? And they will not sell it.
AA: Let's speak of the international dialogue about the Greek Catholic Church. In Balamand (1993) the joint Catholic-Orthodox commission – to which the Greek Catholic Church was not called - on the one side has condemned Uniatism understood as a form of proselytism and on the other side has recognized the existence of the Greek Catholic Church as a church. What is your position concerning this resolution and how do you see the future today, because the international discussion was interrupted in Baltimore in 2000?
LH: If we take Uniatism in this classical way of trying to re-establish unity, we as well do not accept it. We were tricked into it. It was not the intention of our bishops at the end of the 16th century. But this was the political situation within the Polish kingdom of that time. And it was also the theological understanding of the Latin Church after the Council of Trent. But this is the past. And we would not like to have Uniatism used anymore as a way of establishing unity. However, we are a fact and our existence cannot be denied. Patriarch Bartholomew in his letter to the Pope says that he ought to do everything to diminish the Greek Catholic Church. What right does he have to say this? We are here. We have made this choice. If I were today faced with this situation of 400 years ago, I would certainly not choose the way in which it resulted at that time. Metropolitan Sheptytsky, my predecessor, in 1942 said very explicitly in letters to the Orthodox: This is not the way that we would like to conduct ourselves today. So he has in this sense condemned this way and we would not use it today. But we are children of the past, for which we are not responsible. But we are what we are. And one cannot tell us: Disappear! Become Latin or convert to the Orthodox confession! We wish to be Orthodox in the sense of being of this tradition. We have not always been very faithful to it. I think we have lost something on the way, which we have to regain. But we also wish to remain in communion with the Pope of Rome as the successor of Saint Peter, as the symbol of unity. We hope and we wish that all churches would be in this communion. And we consider, even if it is not through our own merit, that we could be a good example of what it means to be Catholic in the sense of being in communion with the successor of Peter and not losing in any way our religious or national identity.
AA: But the Orthodox are saying that you were latinized in the 18 th and 19 th centuries. What are the guarantees in the 21st century that you will not lose freedom?
LH: It is true that we have been latinized. And this is the great merit of Metropolitan Sheptytsky at the beginning of the 20th century: that he tried to reverse this process. Personally, I consider myself a follower of Metropolitan Sheptytsky, together with many others who would like to get rid of all that has illegally entered into our spiritual, theological, liturgical, canonical heritage. We were told: If you want to be a real Catholic, you have to be Latin. And they pushed us into it. And it is only with Metropolitan Sheptytsky that we could say: Dear brothers from Rome, one can be Catholic without being Latin. And we were attacked on two fronts, Catholic-Latin and Orthodox-Byzantine. And we said: No, dear brothers, one can be Ukrainian, one can be Byzantine, one can be at the same time Catholic. These different elements do not contradict one another. So this is why neither the Latin Church nor the Orthodox Church is very happy with us.
AA: What are the conditions to have eucharistic communion between the believers of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church? Is it necessary to have the same theology of marriage, of filioque , of purgatory?
LH: No. Our attitude practically is that between the Orthodox and ourselves there are no differences in faith. Questions like purgatory, the Immaculate Conception or the filioque are theological concepts, not faith. And they of course are very different, but they are ultimately complementary. So they do not represent a different faith. They represent a different understanding of the gift of faith. What is our practical stand on intercommunion? If a Catholic finds himself in a position where there is no Catholic church around, he can freely go to the Orthodox church and receive sacraments. The same thing when an Orthodox cannot find an Orthodox priest, we don't deny him the sacraments, especially confession and holy Communion. The only problem is the scandal that it means, not to give the impression that it doesn't make a difference what you are. You are what you are. But the circumstances are such that you are in need and we are open to help you or to being helped.