BRAMA, Nov 23, 2005, 10:00 am ET|
Archbishop Husar's Orange Revolution of Faith
By Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
Bishop Paul Peter Jesep
On September 29, 2005 Catholic World News (CWNews.com) reported that Archbishop Lubomyr Husar of the Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church "called for the creation of a single Eastern Church in that country, joining the Catholic and Orthodox under a single patriarch."
The Archbishop was quoted by the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (RISU) as saying that "neither Moscow nor Rome will give us unity." If Eastern Rite Christians came together it would force Constantinople, Rome, and Moscow to "accept this fact."
According to Husar it was not essential that the patriarch be Catholic. He said, "This patriarch should be a man capable of uniting everyone." In no way was he calling for Byzantine Catholics to break with Rome. Nor was he expecting the Pope to submit to an Orthodox patriarch.
In an interview with Konstantin Doroshenko posted on RISU.org, the Archbishop commented in response to a question about the division between the faithful of several Orthodox churches and the Byzantine Catholic Church that an ecumenical Eastern Rite Patriarchate should be "in unity with Rome. In this situation there are also many problems . . . Our ancestors were looking for joint communion, whereas Latin theology couldn't understand what joint communion Rome might share with different national churches. It understood unification as subjugation and this process was later named uniatism. Condemning uniatism today, we are looking for a new definition of unity. It should be based not on uniformity, but on the preservation of individual traditions in the form of joint communion . . . joint communion was recognized as a basis for unity so long as everyone retains their tradition and identity . . . There are also other issues, like, for example, relations with the Orthodox. We want the proclamation of a patriarchate to be our common endeavor."
I'm unsure what His Eminence meant by "unity with Rome." It can be understood in a few ways. I would like to think he is suggesting that all Christians are equal members at Christ's fellowship table. Perhaps it's wishful thinking on my part, but I hope all who sit at the Lord's table are in unity with the faith without the hubris to think that there is a preferred seating arrangement. The Eucharist table doesn't belong to Catholics or Orthodox. It is, after all, the Lord's table. All are to be welcomed to it. Denominational vanity has no place in God's kingdom.
"Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell in unity."
The bishop of Rome merits great respect, but never subservience because he is, ultimately, an equal to every Orthodox Patriarch. If that truth is embraced by the first among Latin bishops then Orthodoxy can be in "union" with Rome. Mutual respect will exist and the power struggles of the past will be never more.
In 1054, the Eastern and Western Churches split for several reasons, one included the refusal by the East to recognize the bishop of Rome as first among bishops. I suspect that Archbishop Husar's call for a single patriarch would, in this case, be more of a symbolic, honorary position without the authority to impose anything on either wing. Call him an Ecumenical Patriarch of the Ukrainian Eastern Rite. Imagine, misguided Ukrainians wouldn't need to look to Greece any longer for ecumenical spiritual leadership that it could find among its own people.
Husar wants to bring together two important Christian communities under a framework of fellowship. Icons, incense, ethnicity, culture, ritual and most important, the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, is a commonly shared spiritual heritage.
Interfax reported that Husar said "the negotiations on unification should be started by 'people with higher education and solid religious training.' In doing so, they should understand that the aim of the negotiations is already clear: 'the Church should be one, and we all recognize it', so the unification 'is not a matter of our good will. It is the commandment that is in point.'"
Referring to the Eastern and Western Churches, Pope John Paul II often said that the "Catholic" Church breathes with two lungs in the body of Christ. I would modify the comment and say that it is the universal or "catholic" Christian Church that breathes with two lungs. Perhaps it is our beloved Byzantine Catholic brothers and sisters that are the connecting bridge of spiritual integrity between the two.
The vision outlined by Husar, however, received a peculiar response from Vatican officials. On 13 October 2005, CWNews.com reported that "The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, who had suggested that the next Synod of bishops should discuss the Eastern Christian Churches, has explained that he was referring to the Eastern Catholic Churches. The question of whether or not Orthodox bishops should be invited to take part in such a Synod, he said should be left to the Pope." The headline on the article from the Vatican read, "Ukrainian prelate clarifies call for Synod on Eastern churches."
Archbishop Husar did not "clarify" his position as reported by CWNews.com on October 12th. In light of the newspapers and wire services around the world that ran some aspect of his original remarks, it's apparent that he retracted them.
Did Husar's retraction stem from a concern within the Vatican that delicate relations with the Moscow Patriarchate would become further fractured? Are Ukrainian Byzantine Catholics once again a pawn in a game of high powered Church politics between Rome and Moscow? Or maybe Husar had the unofficial blessing of Rome to make such a statement to see how the trial balloon would fly?
Does Husar's ideas of one Ukrainian Church subtly challenge the notion that the bishop of Rome should not be regarded as first among bishops? Or is this actually a strategic game to incrementally move Ukrainian Orthodoxy under Roman jurisdiction? It would be an unfortunate game if this were the case. No Orthodox patriarch could ever spiritually, intellectually or theologically be subservient to the bishop of Rome. As noted above, all are equal at the Lord's table.
There is another possibility. A very learned professor from Maine pointed out to me that this may be the Archbishop's way of telling Rome not to take Byzantine Catholics for granted. It may have been a strategic tactic used by the Archbishop to protect Ukrainian Eastern Rite Catholics from being ignored or their religion from being Latinized. This is not to suggest that a Latin or Roman approach to faith isn't beautiful in its spirituality. It suggests that it is not the best approach in Ukraine. Husar's only point may have been that cultural differences must be respected.
It's difficult to know what has happened behind the scenes. One thing is for certain, Archbishop Husar, despite the retraction, may have started an "Orange" revolution of faith. Regardless of the motivations, it merits exploration. Although East-West theological conflict isn't likely to end in my lifetime, Ukrainians would benefit by a stronger spiritual fellowship. This in turn would foster greater national Ukrainian identity that centuries of Russification have injured.
The Most Rev. Paul Peter Jesep is Chancellor of the Archeparchy and Syncellus of Government Relations and Public Affairs for the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. His Excellency is also a lawyer, a former legislative analyst to U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine), and has taught the Legislative Process at Boston University. He may be reached at VladykaPaulPeter(a)aol.com.
* * * * *
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