VATICAN CITY, JAN. 26, 2001 (ZENIT.org) -
Greek-Catholics in Ukraine have a new pastor: Bishop Lubomyr Husar has been appointed archbishop major of Lvov of the Ukrainians.
The appointment is decisive, not only for that reviving Catholic community, but also for relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.
According to the tradition of the Oriental Churches, Archbishop Husar was chosen by the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Church, which later presented its proposal to the Pope. John Paul II today confirmed the appointment.
The new archbishop is replacing Cardinal Miroslav Ivan Lubachivski, who died at 86 on Dec. 14. Cardinal Lubachivski had led the rebirth of this Catholic community, which during the time of Mikhail Gorbachev recovered the recognition it lost under earlier Communist regimes.
The Greek-Catholics maintain the liturgy and discipline of the Orthodox Church, from which they proceed, but they recognize the Pope's authority.
Archbishop Husar will welcome John Paul II to Ukraine during the latter's visit June 23-27. This trip has caused controversy in some sectors of the Russian Orthodox Church. The papal visit is also taking place at a time when Orthodoxy in Ukraine is experiencing the lack of unity caused by two schisms.
Given the growth of Greek-Catholics, the Russian Orthodox Church accuses them of proselytism. The latter church is also opposed to returning to the Greek-Catholics the properties expropriated under Stalin, who gave them to the Orthodox Church. Many Catholics, especially bishops and priests, who did not agree to go over to the Orthodox Church were imprisoned and martyred.
During Thursday's ecumenical celebration in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, the Pope explained that he is traveling to Ukraine to promote the dialogue among the Christians of these two churches.
Good relations between Orthodoxy and Catholicism will depend on the success of this trip, as will a possible papal visit to Moscow, as the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, Cardinal-designate Walter Kasper, mentioned a few months ago.
Archbishop Husar, who will soon be 68, was born in Lvov, at the time of the worst persecution. He was forced to flee to the United States, where he was ordained a priest on March 30, 1958, in the Stamford Eparchy of the Ukrainians in Connecticut.
He worked in the Eparchy's seminary until 1969, when he moved to Rome to continue his studies in theology. In 1973, he entered the "Studion" Monastery, in Grottaferrata, just outside Rome. He was elected superior the following year.
After being ordained bishop in 1978, he was appointed archimandrite of the "Studite" monks of Europe and America. Since 1985, he had been vicar general of the major archdiocese of the Ukrainians, which at the time was in exile and had its See in Rome. He returned to the Ukraine in 1994.