Dear Brother Bishops of Canada,
This is for me a particular privilege and honour to be among you, as Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest of the Eastern Churches in the Catholic communion. Only 20 years ago this was the so-called “Silent” Church of Martyrs, called to witness to Christ in the Soviet Union, both secretly in the catacombs as well as openly in defiance of the atheist communist regime. Our Church today is experiencing a period of resurrection. 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.
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. Ukraine is experiencing its own social and economic challenges in a world which has become a very different place over the last five years. However while contemporary society in Ukraine has a great mistrust for government, politicians and civil institutions, the Church, especially our Church, holds great moral authority, and is able to exert considerable influence in the formation of civil society on Christian principles. We are acutely aware of the traps and pitfalls that stand before us. Adapting the image given by the prophet Amos of fleeing from a lion only to encounter a bear (see 5:19), we recognize that for our post-communist society intense secularization processes, which come from the West, are a more subtle real spiritual danger. The majority of Ukrainian citizens do not identify with any of the existing Churches, but have a hunger for God and are open to the missionary work of the Church. In such circumstances the experience of new evangelization, which we are gradually acquiring, may become a precious treasure, which we would hope to share with the entire Catholic Church.
In our efforts to preach the Gospel of Christ and to bear witness to it through a life based on traditional moral values, we cooperate with the Orthodox Churches of Ukraine and, especially in the pastoral context, and make every effort to fulfill our role as mediator between Eastern and Western Christianity. We participate in continuous dialogue and cooperation with the Protestant communities, as well as with representatives of Judaism and Islam through the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.
This year the Canadian House of Commons approved an outstanding declaration acknowledging the heroic virtues of my great predecessor Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky who saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust and Nazi domination in Ukraine. That Council of Churches, represented by their leaders, attended this historical event on April, 2012.
That was a special gift of Canada for the Ukrainian Church world-wide, especially the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Canada which this year is celebrating a centennial anniversary of the arrival to Canada of the first Ukrainian Bishop, Blessed Martyr Nykyta Budka. Just a week ago we held our Synod of Bishops for the first time in Canada which marked this very important Ukrainian Canadian anniversary. 38 Ukrainian Bishops from Canada, USA, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, Western Europe as well as from Ukraine participated in this celebration that our Ukrainian Church has called The Year Of Canada.
I would like to take this opportunity to express to the Conference of Canadian Catholic Bishops my sincere gratitude for your 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.
This is not the case in other parts of the world. Today there are tens of thousands of migrant workers from Ukraine in several European countries. That is why it is so important for us to share in your Canadian experience world-wide, testifying that the presence of the Eastern Churches, with their traditions and structures, is not a threat but a richness of the Catholic community which is unity in diversity.
On my part, I pray to our Lord for your every success in meeting the challenges of the Church in this country. The current economic crisis is merely the symptom of a much deeper spiritual and cultural crisis. As Western society rejects old moral structures and values, it finds that its moral GPS has no fixed and stationary points of reference. And that is where we, as Church, must find new courage to convey to contemporary society the Truth of the Gospel, as an anchor and compass. We live in societies where virtue and goodness are frequently a veneer for religious intolerance, personal gratification and moral decay. Secularism would like us to be closed in a little box of Sunday worship. Separation of Church and State has become separation of faith values from society, yet our mission is to preach the Word of God to all, and to be a constant sign of God’s loving presence through social ministry. Let us not be afraid of the totalitarianism of political correctness and speak the truth regardless of whom we might offend, whether it is on same-sex marriage or on the genocide of abortion. 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.
Your Grace, Archbishop Richard, and Brother Bishops of the Church in Canada, again thank you for this opportunity to bring you greetings!
Que le Christ, notre Seigneur, notre force et notre espoir, fais descendre sur nous, encore et encore son Esprit-Saint, afin que nous soyons dignes à proclamer son évangile avec confiance et conviction, en tout lieu où nous soyons appelés à Le servir.