On 4 December John Paul II, recalling the 70th anniversary of the famine (Holomodor) deliberately engineered by Stalin to bend the Ukraine to his will appealed for pacification, concord and cooperation. The persecution of the Communist regime, with millions of victims, lasted for many decades, but now the country is looking with hope to its youth and to Europe, even though difficulties and problems are not lacking, as explained to SIR by Msgr. Hlib Lonchyna , procurator of the Ukrainian Church to the Holy See. On behalf of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the bishop participated in the recent meeting to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ukrainian University in Rome. The extraordinary witness given by Cardinal Slipyj, among others, was commemorated during the meeting. (Ukraine: population 51,700,000 of whom 57.5% atheist, 29.9% Orthodox, 8.2% Catholic, 3.5% Protestant and 0.9% Jewish) Having emerged from the long tunnel of the Communist dictatorship, what’s the country’s situation in terms of freedom and democracy? “The Ukraine needs to achieve full democracy and is actively involved in this effort. There are political leaders who lived and were educated under the Communist regime, who are unfamiliar with any other type of system, and who rule the country in much the same way as in the past, though perhaps under a different title. We are experiencing difficult times at the economic and political level, but this is the case throughout the world. There’s still a lot to do beginning for example from press freedom but we have trust”. How are the young generations experiencing this transitional phase? “Those who remember the past see a big difference, whereas the younger generations who grew up without personally experiencing the Communist system feel differently; they are able to live a more normal life, no longer subjected to a totalitarian regime as in the past. Wider educational opportunities will help the young in Ukraine to build a society very different from that of the past”. In the tragedy of the past Cardinal Slipyj was a constant point of reference. And today? “Cardinal Slipyj was and remains a very great figure in the history of the Church. He was a confessor of the faith who gave his life for the Church. He remained unshakeable even under torture and persecution, and when he came to Rome he came not to rest, but to continue to work without sparing himself: he founded a university; he built the church of Santa Sofia and the monastery of Studite monks. He dedicated the greatest attention to the Ukrainian Catholic Patriarchate. He continued the work of his successor, the Metropolitan Servant of God Andrea Szeptyckyj, who wished this Ukrainian Church truly to be a Church that would help restore harmony between the two Eastern and Western traditions”. What’s the current situation of the Church? “Having emerged from the catacombs thirteen years ago, it has begun to reconstruct itself and rebuild its infrastructures: our eparchies, i.e. dioceses, have been renewed. The Ukrainian Church is consolidating itself, placing the emphasis on evangelization, and the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) in Rome is playing an important role to this end. The UCU has among its other functions that of educating young priests and also many religious just at a time when a great revival of consecrated life in our country is being registered”. And what about Europe? “The Ukraine has always been part of Europe, it feels itself to be in Europe, so the enlargement now in progress is a source of hope for us. We aspire to enter the Union and, although we are nowhere near an official entry, we are confident”.
The results of the extraordinary witness of Slipyj and Szeptyckyj " "" "