His Beatitude Lubomyr was the spiritual father of today’s Ukraine, but also for many of us.
I have known His Beatitude for ever, so to speak: I saw him in the United States, when I would come with my parents to summer camp. Already at the time, he captivated the young and the old, the intelligentsia and the simple people, by his authenticity and his humour.
He was our spiritual director at the seminary in Rome and my personal confessor. Then, in Ukraine, for nearly twenty years, he took me as a collaborator.
Born in 1933 in the city of Lviv, part of Poland at the time, he underwent life under Soviet and then Nazi occupations of Western Ukraine before fleeing the bombs to Austria in 1944. There he studied in high school and learned German and Latin perfectly.
He moved to the United States in 1949. In Washington and New York he completed his undergraduate studies with a specialization in philosophy.
After serving as a parish priest and teaching foreign languages and philosophy at the seminary, he completed a doctorate in ecclesiology and ecumenism in Rome.
Becoming a monk of the Studite order, he was secretly ordained bishop by Cardinal Josyf Slipyi in 1977.
At the time, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church survived illegally in the Soviet Union for 30 years. Therefore, his ordination and his status as a bishop remained a secret because he was destined to be a reserve bishop for the Church of the catacombs. Thus, he continued his monastic life and his teaching profession for 19 years in Rome and in Ukraine, which had become a newly independent state.
In 1996, Pope John Paul II publicly acknowledged the episcopal consecration of Bishop Lubomyr Husar.
In 2001, the Greek-Catholic Church of Ukraine chose him as its leader.
The past 15 years have been challenging years for a traumatized post-communist Ukrainian society with deep social upheaval. During those years, which witnessed the Orange Revolution and the Revolution of Dignity, and then during the last 3 years of war, he was considered the highest moral authority of the country respected by all, although leader of a minority church.
Cardinal Lubomyr was endowed with many talents — spirituality, intelligence, sensitivity, with great imagination and remarkable ability to communicate. He preached and sang with a beautiful resonant baritone voice. He was likely the best preacher of our Church in the last fifty years.
But above all, he was a man of prayer, a monk, who was thirsting for communion with God. As a priest, archimandrite, church leader, he prayed incessantly to be in union with God and lead others toward such communion.
For him, the unity of the Churches was of utmost importance. He wrote his doctorate on Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky and his theology, his spirituality, and his desire for reconciliation among Christians.
He assembled the bishops of the Synod of our Church, who were deeply divided at the time of his election.
He gathered Ukrainians of different confessions, or without confession, becoming for them a spiritual father and the highest moral authority of the country.
He was loved by taxi drivers, listened to by young and old, by entrepreneurs and artists, by practicing parishioners and those who were not members of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. He aspired to broaden this unity and to bring together the members of his Church and his compatriots in general. The Cardinal contributed to reconciliation between Ukrainians, Poles, and Jews. He dreamed of the end of the war and peace with Russia...
His Beatitude Lubomyr has left us as an inheritance two particular features of his character that force us to think and call us to the corresponding virtues:
In the world, in our country, everywhere, there is a great thirst for power and the desire to preserve it at all costs. He deliberately left power, gave it up, and surprised all of Ukraine by his withdrawal in 2011, unprecedented for the head of a Church. He simply gave up his power...
The cardinal lived very humbly, possessed very little, disliked luxury. Of course, for the liturgy and for glory to God, he followed the rich Byzantine tradition, the beauty of its celebrations for the praise to God.
But he had very simple tastes. This modesty and simplicity also prevailed in his relations with others. He knew how to communicate easily with everyone, in different languages, in different countries and continents. His way of communicating was always tinged with little pearls of humour, and self-effacing. His Beatitude knew how to truly laugh at himself. In this humour appeared his intimacy with God, for humour and mystery are close cousins of the sacred and the sacramental.
At the time of his passage to God, it is very important that we accompany Lubomyr through our prayers.
Let us pray for his Beatitude Lubomyr Husar, for the peace and repose of his soul!
Let us pray for his Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, his 46-year-old successor, who must bear on his shoulders all the burden of the Church in this period of war and suffering in the country!
Let us pray that the Lord grant us to make the virtues of Lubomyr Husar our own and put them into practice!