Lubomyr Husar: I would like authorities really act in the spirit of Maidan
Over the past two years our country has lived in constant tension and anxiety, therefore a sober and wise voice is needed to be heard among political news and intricate schemes, among the many slogans and outcry as never before. So many Ukrainian carefully listen to the quiet voice of His Beatitude Lubomyr (Husar), who stepped aside from the leadership of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, but remains an active community leader. Although he notes that because of problems with eyesight he is unable to follow in detail, for many it is his speech and comments that often provide a better understanding of the developments.
“The things going on in Ukraine repeatedly occurred in history. I had the opportunity to read, to experience, to witness what was happening in the world, so I apply what I hear to Ukraine. My column in Ukrainian Pravda refers to very general issues. For example, opinions as to what the MP should be like - in Ukraine in 2015 or in Germany 100 years ago, in America 200 years ago. It turns out that in all the mentioned timeframes this ministry had some similar features. And what the man should be like? These things are not linked to time and place,” said His Beatitude. He shared with RISU his thoughts on the situation in society and inside the Church.
- We often hear that society is being secularized and the authority of the Church decreases. At the same time, “Novoye Vremia” magazine has named you the moral authority of Ukraine. What is the authority of the Church and what it should rest on?
- What is the authority of the Church? Firstly, we must determine what the Church is. For very many people the Church means hierarchy, bishops or clergy. However, when we theologically determine that the Church is all God's people, we see that the laity is much more numerous than priests or bishops. But it has become a tradition that people imply the actual voice of bishops and priests when using the word "Church" in a popular although incorrect manner.
For many people the things a priest said in the sermon mean it was said by the Church. In a broad sense we can say that this is the priest who conveys the teaching of the Church. And the teaching of the Church is unchanged and always the same, and the way people perceive the clergymen does not change the teaching of God in its width and depth.
But we are talking about different things.
When we refer to the Church authority, we mean the way the Church responds to current matters. For example, today there is a huge problem of corruption in Ukrainian society. Did the Church Magisterium, and especially the bishops, ever speak on the issue or denounced corruption or turned the attention of the faithful that it is a sin? In other words, what is their position? The position taken by the Church is the basis for its authority.
But there is yet another element we must not forget – the behavior of clergymen. If the priests and bishops do not accept any form of bribe in our society which is corrupt tot the core, then people see that priests observe what they preach. God forbid, if there is a priest, or even worse, a bishop who takes bribes, this may be very detrimental to the Church.
The authority of the Church lies in the fact that it teaches the Word of God and observes it. The government makes the laws, creates commissions, performs various activities to overcome corruption, but unfortunately, there are many proven cases of corruption in the government at various levels. Not surprisingly, there is no trust – they talk about commissions, activities, appointments and laws, while de facto the corrupt practices persist.
The authority of the Church (not solely of the Catholic Church) is reaffirmed when it condemns sin, and corruption is a sin, for it is theft. Thus, for example, if a pastor (perhaps not on the basis of direct bribery) does not condemn some bad practices sufficiently during elections, then the authority of the Church Magisterium decreases.
- What is your secret? Why do they listen to you?
- We must remember one thing: nobody can make up a moral authority on one’s own – this is what people may call you. It means this person is trusted and is believed to condemn evil and vice. This person is not afraid evento admonish the government, and his actions are in line with what he declares. So, people see that that person consistently evades doing evil, trying not to do anything of this kind.
When I was in Lviv, various enterprises frequently delayed payment of wages, and I quoted Scripture, pointing out that even the government has no right to keep back salaries due to working people, as a working man shall be duly rewarded. A more picturesque example: before Christmas I reminded people that we should not destroy our forests by cutting trees, - you can buy artificial ones. The rector of St. George cathedral wanted to buy a good natural Christmas tree, but eventually he bought an artificial one. I told him: “Father, this one will serve you for a few years.” In any case, people saw, I expressed the wish and the clergyman obeyed it.
Note, however, that no person can declare himself a moral authority (smiling) –it comes from people.
- During local elections, some priests decided to run for election. The UGCC clearly expressed its stance. Bishop Bohdan (Dziurakh) rather sharply said that a priest should make his choice, as he cannot be a deputy and a pastor simultaneously. But previously the priests took seats in the Sejm, and the UGCC was proud of it. Now the Church does not support such political activity of its priests. What is your opinion on this issue, do you think the priests could go into politics?
- Political offices are elective, so one should be elected. In such a situation one part of the voters “wins” and the other “loses.” A priest must be equally accessible to all, so that no one could say: “I did not elect him.” The priest should be a pastor in the first place and should be equally open to everyone.
There are special circumstances. For example, Fr. Augustine Voloshyn held an action in Transcarpathia in 1938. There were also other priests engaged in direct political activity, but in such a way that they are not separated from the community. There are numerous examples in history. At that time the priest became a hero, people were happy to communicate with him, he did not differentiate between people. People knew that Fr. Voloshyn went into politics to lead the establishment of the Ukrainian state in Transcarpathia. However, being involved in politics or liberation struggle, the priest may neglect his pastoral vocation. Probably few people went to Father Voloshyn for confession, baptism of children or marriage – he had no time for this.
However, these were special circumstances.
Today a priest should not run for elections as it means divide. Those in favor will be happy and those against will reject this priest as pastor and he will lose spiritual contact with people. Therefore the Church forbids priests to run for elections. The Synod of Bishops has repeatedly reminded the priests about it.
Of course, there may be exceptions, but a priest has to ask for individual permission from his bishop. For example, Fr Mykola Simkaylo (later the Bishop). As a parish priest in Ivano-Frankivsk, he became member of the City Council with a blessing and permission of the ruling bishops Dmyterko and Mudryy. However, there must be very important grounds for this exception, not just a priest’s desire to go into politics.
- After Maidan, we often hear about the need for change. Someone argues that Ukrainians have already changed; someone says, on the contrary, nothing has changed, we need a new Maidan. What is your vision? The guilty of death have remained unpunished, what we are to do with it?
- People woke up and manifested its will to change something – there is no doubt. However, the expectations did not come true as expected. Perhaps, the expectations were too high, or there was certain dawdling on the part of the authorities. Even the EU and other partners of Ukraine noted that there are lots of talks but little work. The laws are being adopted, very good and necessary ones, but they are not implemented. They say there is not enough political will. I think the accusation that too little is being done is grounded to some extent.
Therefore, some tension has emerged and I would really like the authorities at different levels (because in such cases, success depends on many people) truly act in the spirit of Maidan. Maidan was a major positive step. Like no other nation in the world, we demonstrated our will on a large scale – hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Kyiv and other cities. But now both leaders and the people are moving too slowly. Striving for changes was declared by many on Maidan, but does everybody make these changes in their cities, towns and` villages?
- The talks about the third Maidan increase, claiming that people need to go again. Is this the solution?
- I think that everybody should work, not talk. When needed, one should not keep silent, but tell responsible people what is wrong. But those in power and those without power, i.e. civil society have to work very diligently. And each side can be mistaken. Thus, people's expectations may be justified, but may be artificial and unjustified as well. On the other hand, when the government gives promises and goes back on promises, I am not surprised that people are protesting.
I would gladly not witness what is called a third Maidan. I would rather like to see people set to work at all levels. Now there is a new system, although it sounds quite strange – decentralization, but the principle is very healthy – vesting local people with responsibility for their lives. This principle is often called subsidiarity. But one really needs to transfer power, to make people responsible, in order that all necessary things were duly implemented, that the government showed true political will and actual practical willingness. When everybody sets down to work, you will not need a third Maidan.
- On November 1, the Ukrainians and Poles traditionally pray together at Lychakiv cemetery beside the graves of Ukrainian and Polish soldiers who fought against each other. Along with Cardinal Marian Jaworski, you gave rise to this tradition, made the first steps. Now,due to the war in Donbas, Ukrainians are internally divided. The Russians will leave one day, so how is this country to be stitchedtogether after all this blood and war?
- We should pause to thin. We ought not live by emotions and slogans, but calmly and soberly assess the situation. We must act together. One cannot succeed easily and immediately in everything. But we must do at least something. One should not sleep. People are to pause to think and become aware of their responsibility and do what they must do.
- Will we be able to reconcile?
- If we want to, why not? You just have to want to. It is not always easy; sometimes it is very difficult to achieve consent - even between two people in marriage. There are communities, and they need to consider: whether they will benefit from division and enmity? Would not it be better for the common good and work to reconcile, forgive and ask forgiveness? But we must want it.
People are very emotional, and often lack leaders who would lead them to reconciliation. Perhaps the church should play a more active role. The Prayer of Reconciliation at Lychakiv Cemetery is the Church’s initiative; the clergy played a good role there as well as the Ukrainian Catholic University and the community. This was a foregoer and conscious people eventually got involvedas they felt it was good and we should do something together. Therefore, the initiative was received by public.
- In one of the recent comments made by speakers of the UOC there was an indirect accusation against the UGCC that they talk a lot about the war and the UOC speaks mostly about peace. Can there be peace at any price? Without justice?
- Talks about peace sound very well. We may also talk a lot about war, but we try to make peace. The Moscow Patriarchate, instead, speaks very eloquently about peace, but is it condemning the actions of their government, which is the aggressor? You can talk a lot, but only actions are of ultimate value. We say that we are at war; it is not a civil conflict but a real war although not declared. We encourage and support volunteer army. Why? In order that war ended. We do not deny the facts.Interviewed by Marianna KARAPINKA