Address by the President of the CCCB to the Synod of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishops
Dear Brother Bishops,
Glory to Jesus Christ!
I thank my brother in the Lord, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, for the kind invitation to address this eminent gathering. I am pleased and honoured to be with you, because this occasion affords me the opportunity to greet you on behalf of all the Latin-rite Bishops of Canada, and to assure you of our fraternal affection and abiding esteem. We remember with deep appreciation the visit of His Beatitude to our Plenary Assembly held near the city of Montreal, Canada just under one year ago and the message he shared with us. His words were a pledge of fraternal communion, which my visit with you in Kyiv now allows me to reciprocate.
We rejoice with you as you celebrate here the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of the people of Kyivan-Rus’. In Canada we continue to mark an anniversary of considerably fewer years but still of great significance for our land, namely, the centenary of the arrival of the first Ukrainian Catholic Bishop in our country, the Blessed Nikita Budka. The commemorations of these events unite to underscore the marvellous enrichment that our Ukrainian brothers and sisters bring to both Church and society.
Among the many gifts you offer us, I want to mention in particular your witness of fidelity and resilience. As I visit this country and read again of its history, I am both edified and humbled by the resilience of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the face of great persecution and suffering. The lesson you teach us is that authentic discipleship involves inescapably the embrace of truth revealed in Christ and its incarnation in our individual and collective lives. Resistance to this truth by others, even violent opposition, does not excuse us from our responsibility to be faithful witnesses to our Lord. From your heroic example, we in the West can draw encouragement and inspiration. While secularization there steadily fashions an environment intolerant of the Gospel, you remind us of the beauty of fidelity and its power to transform. In this way you encourage us to be steadfast, regardless of the consequences, confident that God works mysteriously through his faithful ones to turn all to the good.
It appears to me that your apprehension of the beauty of truth and faithful adherence to it arises from the central place accorded by the Ukrainian tradition to the Divine Liturgy. God who is Truth meets us in the Liturgy, where he draws us into the mystery of His love, and enables us to share even now in his Triune life. Encounter with this mystery in the Liturgy engenders fidelity to the divine love, and impels us by that same caritas toward our brothers and sisters, even if our presence and message is unwelcome. Your consistent witness over many centuries to this truth lends strength to the call now being issued to the Church and world by Pope Francis to know the Lord and to bring his love to the peripheries.
At the same time the Divine Liturgy handed on in the Byzantine tradition gives great emphasis to Mercy, which is Truth’s necessary companion. Here again we find a lesson vital for our times. Our day is rather harsh and unforgiving toward human frailty, an attitude that, sadly, characterizes the manner in which many Catholics relate to one another. Yet God is rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4) and no one can survive without divine forgiveness (Psalm 130:3). From the frequent cry for mercy in the Divine Liturgy we learn the foundation of true human solidarity: since all are in need of God’s tender compassion, we must be merciful toward one another.
In Canada, the relationship between Latin and Ukrainian Catholics is strong. I am pleased to share with you that this good rapport is particularly visible in our national episcopal conference and regional assemblies of Bishops, where we welcome the full participation of our Ukrainian brothers. Indeed, we ensure that the Metropolitan has a permanent ex officio presence on our Permanent Council, the body of Bishops that governs the life of our episcopal conference between plenary sessions. We benefit greatly from their participation not only in various committees of the national conference but also in shared ministry at the regional and local levels. They are our brothers, they are our friends, and we are enriched by our collaboration for the good of the Church.
Today on the Latin Church Calendar we mark a beautiful mystery in the life of our Blessed Mother. The Ukrainian tradition speaks of this as her Dormition, the Latin as her Assumption. These two terms for the same event constitute a distinction without difference. Thus does our common love for the Mother of God shine light on the nature of our unity in the Church: distinct without difference. By the intercession of Our Lady, may this communion give both hope and direction to our world that hungers for harmony and peace.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Kyiv, Ukraine, August 15, 2013