The Ecumenical Laboratory of Ukraine | Brett R. McCaw | CWR
A conversation with His Beatitude Lubomyr Cardinal Husar about the Maidan movement and relationships between Catholics and Orthodox
On June 7th, Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated as Ukraine’s first elected president since the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych in late February. As Poroshenko’s presidency will take on the challenges of a country whose interests straddle both East and West, the pivotal role of churches within the Ukraine’s contemporary political developments cannot be overlooked. While culturally Orthodox, contemporary Ukraine is one of Europe’s most ecclesiastically pluralistic countries with the historical presence of Eastern-rite Catholic, Latin-Rite Catholic, Protestant, and smaller Jewish and Muslim communities along with its Orthodox majority, which is represented by three churches: Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate (UOC-KP), Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church.
What St. John Paul II would once refer to as the “Ecumenical Laboratory of Ukraine” during his 2001 Papal visit to the country was very much manifest within the Maidan movement over the past seven months. The ecumenical presence of clergy along with public liturgies and prayers were quintessential to the “Maidan” gatherings on Kyiv’s Independence Square that began in late November of 2013.
Among the most notable religious figures within post-Soviet Ukraine is His Beatitude Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, who led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern-rite Church in communion with Rome, from 2001 until his retirement in 2011. During his decade of leadership, Cardinal Husar became a unanimously respected moral and ecumenical voice in the country. Nevertheless, his leadership faced significant challenges posed by the legacies of Soviet Communism and the historical enmities between Ukraine’s Catholic and Orthodox faithful.
In this interview with the Catholic World Report, Cardinal Husar offers his characteristically candid, yet wise, insight into the role of the Church in Ukraine’s Maidan movement, the question of ecumenism in Ukraine, and the oftentimes complex relationship between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox Churches.
CWR: Do you feel that the experience of the Maidan movement has created an opportunity for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to show its solidarity for the whole of Ukraine?
His Beatitude Lubomyr: The Church was not an agent, but served. And we made a point of it. We were there to serve the people who had come on their own. We had done nothing consciously to advise people—to “convince” them to go. I addressed the Maidan a couple of times in order to emphasize that the Church supported the Maidan and for what it stood.
At last, the people of Ukraine would live in a truly democratic society. We have always spoken simply—welcoming what has happened simply in the sense of serving and not in the intention of taking lead to become a leader in this entire movement, but to serve people and serve their religious needs.
CWR:During your leadership, you made strong efforts to strengthen ecumenism between your Church (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) and Orthodox churches of Ukraine. In particular, how would you assess the relationship of your church with the Russian Orthodox Church—Moscow Patriarchate?