Tuesday, 25 September, Sainte-Adele, Quebec, Canada: His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), Major Archbishop of the Kyiv-Halych, and father and head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church addressed Canada’s Catholic Bishops who were assembled at their annual meeting near Montreal, Canada. In greeting the more than 70 bishops of the Catholic Churches in Canada, he reminded the bishops of the suffering of his Church during the communist era. The Church witnessed to Christ both “in the catacombs” as well in open defiance to the regime. “So many martyrs and confessors have suffered for the faith in the last century. Let their example and witness be an inspiration for all of us,” Shevchuk said. “Fully embracing its identity of being ‘Orthodox in faith and Catholic in love’ we are aware of our role in allowing the Catholic Church to breathe with both its lungs, East and West,” he said.
“Today we are renewing the life of our Church in a country, which seems torn between old influences and new attempts to integrate with the broader European community.” He continued to say, “We are acutely aware of the traps and pitfalls that stand before us. Adapting the image given by the prophet Amos of fleeing from the lion only to encounter a bear, we recognize that for our post-communist society intense secularization processes, which come from the West, are a more subtle real spiritual danger.”
The major archbishop is the first head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to address the Canadian bishops at their annual plenary session. He emphasized that the Church must find “new courage” to proclaim the truth of the Gospel to contemporary society to provide “an anchor and compass.”
“We live in societies where virtue and goodness are frequently a veneer for religious intolerance, personal gratification and moral decay,” he said. “Secularism would like us to be closed in a little box of Sunday worship.”
This is the year of Canada, Shevchuk said. It is the 100th anniversary of the appointment of the first Ukrainian Catholic Bishop to Canada in the person of Blessed Martyr Nykyta Budka. This year the Synod of Ukrainian Catholic Greek Catholic Bishops held their annual meeting in Canada. He also reminded the bishops that in April of this year he was in Ottawa with members from the Ukrainian Council of Churches when the members of parliament in the Canadian House of Commons approved a declaration acknowledging “the heroic virtues” of his predecessor the great archbishop of Lviv, Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky for his role in saving hundreds of Jewish children during the Nazi occupation of Western Ukraine.
The Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church went on to thank the Canadian Catholic Bishops for their “fraternal spirit of cooperation.”
“My brother Bishops here in Canada speak highly of this body and greatly appreciate the support and understanding our Church receives throughout Canada.”
The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Most Reverend Richard Smith, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Edmonton, thanked His Beatitude Sviatoslav on behalf of those assembled for his visit to the plenary session of the Conference and assured him and the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of the support and prayers of the Bishops of Canada.
The Major Archbishop was on a pastoral visit to Canada that began on August 29th with a visit to the Pacific West Coast to the faithful of the Eparchy of New Westminster in British Columbia. He then journeyed to Manitoba where he was able to meet with many faithful of the Archeparchy of Winnipeg in the days prior to the Synod of Bishops meeting that was held near Winnipeg. His pastoral visit continued after the Synod to the faithful of the Eparchy of Saskatoon in the Province of Saskatchewan.