Deisis (Novogorod)

The Church That Stalin Couldn’t Kill: Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Thrives Seventy Years after Forced Reunification

risu.org.ua - Seventy years ago, on March 8-10, 1946, under orders from Josef Stalin, an illegal “synod” of Kremlin-controlled clergy gathered in the city of Lviv, recently absorbed into the Soviet Union as part of the settlement of World War II. The purpose of the gathering was to liquidate the independent existence of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, or rather to “reunite” it with the Russian Orthodox Church. This flimsy ruse derived from the church’s origins as a result of the Union of Brest in 1595 when thousands of faithful and their clergy—the Metropolitanate of Kyiv-Halych—broke away from Eastern orthodoxy to place themselves under the authority and pastoral protection of the Latin Catholic Pope of Rome.

The next three-and-a-half centuries established the church as a thriving spiritual center that was closely connected to rising social and intellectual movements as they struggled to define an identity for nascent Ukrainian populations that found themselves under the serial domination of empires and states in the region.

By the middle of the twentieth century, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) included over three thousand parishes, 4,440 churches, five seminaries, and 127 monasteries. Over three million believers were served by three thousand priests, ten bishops, and the metropolitan at the head of the church. As Stalin’s regime moved to subdue and absorb the Western Ukrainians, it was clear that this large and vibrant institution that answered to an authority outside of the state would continue to nurture the same patriotism and independent spirit that had proved so problematic during the first Soviet occupation in 1939-1941. Moreover, during the Second World War, even though the Communist Soviet regime had moved away from strict atheism, recognizing that religion could play a role in supporting the war effort, the imperative to control all religious institutions remained. The “reunification” of the UGCC with the Russian Orthodox Church emerged as the solution. A “synod” was assembled without the participation of any UGCC bishops; those who had been coerced into attending cast their votes and the church was officially absorbed into the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate along with most of its property. In a cynical move that reinforced the decision, the announcement was made on the first Sunday of Easter Lent, on the 350th anniversary of the Union of Brest. As a result, the UGCC became the largest outlawed church in the world.

Harsh repressions followed. Ukrainian Catholic priests were beaten, tortured, and given long prison sentences. Tens of thousands of religious laity met the same fate. UGCC Metropolitan Josef Slipiy was exiled to a hard labor camp in Siberia. The church went underground: services were held in the forests, or in private homes where they dared. Children were baptized in secret and religious rites performed clandestinely, while the Soviet state continued its assault on priests, monks, nuns, and the Catholic faithful, offering respite within the Russian Orthodox Church or repression as the price for refusal to cut ties with the bishop of Rome.

And yet the flame of resistance endured and provided inspiration as stories of brutality and courage were shared among trusted family members and passed down from one generation to another. Western Ukraine, with its aspirations and support for an independent Ukraine, remained a hotbed for anti-Soviet sentiments and religious diversity. When the long struggle of the underground church finally ended in 1989, only three hundred aged priests remained.

The vitality of the church quickly reasserted itself, with the support of the diaspora, the thousands of Ukrainians who had fled their homeland during the war and settled in North America, Latin America, Europe, and as far afield as Australia.

Today, with a spiritual center in Rome, the recently reestablished Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv and newly built cathedral in Kyiv, the church has thirty-three eparchies and exarchates and fifty-three bishops on four continents, with over three thousand priests whose average age is thirty eight.

The church’s influence on Ukraine’s social and political life has been evident since independence. Students from the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv were some of the first to come to Kyiv in 2004, to support the ideas and aspirations of the Orange Revolution against an authoritarian regime. And in 2013-14, Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity was suffused with the moral values and tolerant attitudes propounded by the church. Its clergy were a daily presence on the Maidan throughout the three months of struggle. Together with the other churches and religious denominations of Ukraine, the UGCC has helped to create an ecumenical and diverse environment for social movements in Ukraine. As a bulwark against authoritarianism, this spirit of ecumenism continues to be Ukraine’s best instrument as it struggles toward becoming a democratic and prosperous state.

Nadia M. Diuk is Vice President—Europe, Eurasia, Africa, Latin America & the Caribbean at the National Endowment for Democracy

Source:http://www.atlanticcouncil.org
   


Teachings of Christ

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." (John 3:16-18 ESV)

Transfiguration

You were transfigured on the mountain, O Christ God, * showing Your glory to Your Disciples as far as they were able to bear it. * Through the prayers of the Mother of God, * let Your everlasting Light shine also upon us sinners. * O Giver of Light, glory to You! (Troparion, Tone 7)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Upon the mountain You were transfigured, O Christ God, * and Your Disciples beheld Your glory as far as they could receive it, * so that when they would see You crucified, * they would understand that You suffered willingly; * and they would preach to the world * that You are truly the radiance of the Father. (Kontakion, Tone 7)

Dormition

O Mother of God, in giving birth you preserved virginity; * and in falling asleep you did not forsake the world. * You are the Mother of Life and have been transferred to life, * and through your prayers you deliver our souls from death. (Troparion - Tone 1)

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Neither the tomb nor death could detain the Mother of God, * who is unsleeping in her prayers and our unfailing hope in her intercession; * for He Who dwelt in her ever-virgin womb, * transferred to Life the Mother of Life. (Kontakion - Tone 2)

Random Proverb

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest." (Proverbs 6:6-8 ESV)

Pray Without Ceasing

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wisdom from the Church Fathers

Seek God daily. But seek Him in your heart, not outside it. And when you find Him, stand with fear and trembling, like the Cherubim and Seraphim, for your heart has become a throne of God. But in order to find God, become humble as dust before the Lord, for the Lord abhors the proud; whereas He visits those that are humble in heart, wherefore He says: “To whom will I look, but to the one who is meek and humble in heart?”

St. Nectarius of Aegina