19 March 2013

Patriarch Sviatoslav in Edmonton

In relation to my last post, I want to tell a quick story about Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk coming to Edmonton last June (technically, he doesn't have the title "Patriarch"). There was no way I'd miss a chance to assist at a Pontifical Divine Liturgy with the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. I, of course, went real early to pray. OK, I really went early to get a good seat that would give me the possibility of receiving Communion from His Beatitude. It turned out that he didn't distribute Communion to the congregation, but I'm very glad I went early, and not just to pray.

As I was praying, a couple guys came in that had the same kind of hair as me, only they were dressed all in black. One of them went and spoke to one of the priests, who then went into the sacristy to enter the sanctuary and proceeded to open the Royal Doors in the iconostasis to let the other man in black enter the sanctuary.

At that time, I knew exactly who this other man in black was: he was an orthodox bishop, presumably of the Western Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. I thought this was so beautiful (that's a bit of a pun as those doors in the iconostasis are also called the Beautiful Gate). Not only did he come to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav's Pontifical Divine Liturgy, his authority as bishop was fulling recognized by opening the Holy Doors for him. Only bishops are permitted to go through these doors outside of the Divine Liturgy, and even then, only those when it is prescribed by the liturgical rubrics.

Obviously, he couldn't take part in the Divine Liturgy or receive Communion due to the present disunity between our churches (none of which is doctrinal), but Major Archbishop Sviatoslav not only acknowledge him at the end of the Divine Liturgy, His Beatitude invited him to join the recessional. Before doing this, His Beatitude spoke what I assume were some very nice words about their two churches. I don't actually know what he said because it was all in Ukrainian.

As a Roman Catholic, this was a very moving experience. It must have been even more so for the Ukrainian Catholics.

When asked if he would like to meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow,  Major Archbishop Sviatoslav said:
I would like very much to visit him and hold a personal meeting with him. I am convinced that in peacefully and openly communicating with each other, we can relieve any tension.

Our church has voiced its readiness and openness for a dialogue ever since it emerged from the underground. I remember how Patriarch Ivan Lubachivskyi, who ordained me, after he moved to Ukraine, said: 'We forgive and ask for forgiveness.' It was a very deep call to reconciliation on his part. It was in the 1990s, at the time of the strongest confrontation, particularly in western Ukraine. There was the will for reconciliation on our part. Later, His Beatitude Lubomyr confirmed and repeated the same in the presence of Pope John Paul II who visited Ukraine.

I think that today, we should heal the wounds rather than irritate and deepen them. One can heal the wounds of our memory only with mutual forgiveness. Therefore, as for any our brethren or neighbors who wounded us or were wounded by us, the best way to communicate is to be open in a brotherly dialogue, be open to the purification of our memory, to ask for forgiveness and to forgive.

RISU 1 April 2011