The Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada was pleasantly surprised by recent events held in Toronto and Ottawa honouring the Servant of God, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church from 1901 – 1944.

These events were organized by the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter (UJE), which describes itself as a privately organized, multinational initiative launched in 2008 as a collaborative project involving Ukrainians of Jewish and Christian heritage and others, in Ukraine and Israel as well as in the diasporas. The work of this organization engages scholars, civic leaders, artists, governments and the broader public in an effort to promote stronger and deeper relations between the two peoples. [Source: UJE brochure]

To carry out their mission in 2012 the UJE took on a very unique project. At their own expense and planning, the UJE brought from Ukraine to North America the members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, which included some 20 heads of religious communities in Ukraine. Participants included: His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk (Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church); His Holiness Filaret (Ukrainian Orthodox Church Kyivan Patriarchate); His Eminence Mefodiy, (Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church); Most Reverend Markiyan Trofimyak (Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine); Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich (Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine); Sheikh Ahmad Tamim (Grand Mufti of Ukraine); and various representatives of Protestant denominations and communities in Ukraine. In addition there were various resource persons and assistants accompanying the group.

This group of leaders came together to pay honour to the person and legacy of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, recognizing his openness to members of other faiths and Christian denominations, his dedication to the safeguarding of human rights of all persons in Ukraine, and his defense of spiritual and religious values in relation to both civil and military authorities. Much of Metropolitan Andrey’s leadership occurred during times of war, which called for heroic persistence in maintaining the spiritual and human values that he championed. His defense of Jews during the Nazi occupation, and particularly his personal efforts in hiding Jews at his own risk were especially noted. As such, it was this model of a consistent ethic of integrity that the Council chose to guide their own actions and interactions with governmental and social leaders for the development of a more just, ethical and compassionate society in Ukraine.

Organized in a relatively short period of time this visit of the church and religious leaders of Ukraine to North America had a very full agenda. The high point of their trip to Canada, was the visit to the House of Commons in Ottawa, on Tuesday, April 24th, where they witnessed the motion made by the Honourable Jason Kenny, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturism, honouring Metropolitan Sheptytsky. The motion was supported by all political parties in the House of Commons and passed unanimously with a standing ovation. The motion stated: This House is united in expressing Canada’s recognition of Andrey Sheptytsky’s courageous actions, compassion for his oppressed Jewish Ukrainian countrymen, and enduring example of commitment to fundamental human rights as humankind’s highest obligation. The religious leaders of Ukraine also met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The participants later attended an Interfaith Gathering at Machzikei Hadas Synagogue in Ottawa, hosted by Rabbi Rueven Bulka. Later that evening, the UJE held a Kosher Banquet in their honour at the Chateau Laurier Hotel. The keynote speaker at the banquet was Minister Jason Kenny. In attendance were various current and former MPs, including former Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, as well as Canadian religious and civic representatives.

On Wednesday, April 25, participants attended a symposium at the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies on Metropolitan Andrey, entitled: Ethical Action in Extreme Conditions. The Sheptytsky Institute plans to publish the symposium presentations in its publication LOGOS: A JOURNAL OF EASTERN CHRISTIAN STUDIES.

 From Ottawa the members of the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations travelled to Washington DC and New York for further events.

The Father and Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, in conversation with Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak of Winnipeg, extended greetings to all the faithful of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada. Regrettably, due to the heavy agenda and short duration of this trip, His Beatitude was not able to personally greet many members of the Ukrainian Catholic Community on this occasion. Nonetheless, he is looking forward to his visit to the various eparchies in Canada later this year.

As the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of its first bishop to Canada, Blessed Bishop Nykyta Budka, it is worthy to note that it was Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky who spearheaded the establishment of a Church hierarchy in Canada and the appointment of Budka as the first bishop. Following Sheptytsky’s two pastoral visits to the faithful in Canada in 1910 and 1921, the recent events in Toronto and Ottawa were, as if it were, a third visit to Canada by the Servant of God, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky.

Let us continue to remember in our prayers the cause of Beatification of Metropolitan Andrey, which is now underway.
Most Rev. Lawrence Huculak OSBM

Archeparch of Winnipeg

Metropolitan for Ukrainian Catholics in Canada


26 April 2012