The professors and staff of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at Saint Paul University in Ottawa welcome with joy the Holy See’s announcement that Pope Francis yesterday recognized the heroic virtues of its patron, Andrey Sheptytsky. During this time of foreign aggression against Ukraine – as well as turmoil in so many other historically Eastern Christian lands – this recognition brings particular consolation. Archbishop Sheptytsky demonstrated saintly courage when he sheltered more than 160 Jews during the Nazi Holocaust. The Holy See’s recognition comes in the wake of similar initiatives by other authorities. On April 24, 2012, the Canadian House of Commons unanimously passed a resolution that concludes: “This House unite[s] in expressing Canada’s recognition of Andrey Sheptytsky’s courageous activities, compassion for his oppressed Jewish Ukrainian countrymen, and enduring example of commitment to fundamental human rights as humankind’s greatest obligation.”
The Sheptytsky Institute is particularly gratified that so many members of the Jewish community have promoted the cause of Sheptytsky’s beatification from the very beginning. Already in the 1950s, Kurt Lewin, the son of the murdered chief rabbi of Lviv – saved by Sheptytsky – argued strenuously for the Archbishop’s beatification. Eric Goldhagen, lecturer in Jewish Studies at Harvard University, wrote the following about Sheptytsky in the Introduction to David Kahane’s memoir, Lvov Ghetto Diary: “No other ecclesiastical figure of equal rank in the whole of Europe displayed such sorrow for the fate of the Jews and acted so boldly on their behalf.”
The Archbishop also worked tirelessly throughout his lifetime for reconciliation between Ukrainians, Russians and Poles, as well as other nations and groups. Particularly legendary were his efforts to see Catholics and Orthodox overcome their historical estrangement. Sheptytsky was a precursor of the ecumenical movement long before the Catholic Church officially endorsed the movement.
During this time of economic crisis in Ukraine and so many other historically Eastern Christian territories, it is also important to recall Sheptytsky’s commitment to the poor. Born into an aristocratic family, the Archbishop used his resources to create a free clinic, provide countless scholarships and help victims of famine, flooding and war. He personally lived a life of poverty, as attested by the Russian-born founder of Canada’s famed Madonna House, Catherine de Hueck Doherty. The former baroness wrote of Sheptytsky’s passion for the poor in her report for Commonweal Magazine in 1939.
Sheptytsky also immensely valued education. Consequently, the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies, founded in 1986 by Fr. Andriy Chirovsky to continue the Archbishop’s legacy, views Pope Francis’s recognition as particularly inspiring. It confirms the Institute’s mission and compels us even more earnestly to follow Sheptytsky’s saintly example.
– Fr. Peter Galadza, PhD
Acting Director and Kule Family Professor of Liturgy