PLENARY ADDRESS — Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk receives a standing ovation from the Canadian bishops after his address on Sept. 25, the first time the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has addressed the CCCB plenary. (CCN/Gyapong photo)
Shevchuk warns of subtle spiritual danger of secularism
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
SAINTE-ADELE, Que. (CCN) — The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church told Canada’s bishops Sept. 25 that western secularism challenges Ukraine’s post-Communist future and underlies the worldwide economic crisis.
The first head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to address
the plenary, Shevchuk said 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.”
The former Soviet Union used that approach to religion, he said.
He called to mind the suffering of his church during the
Communist era, that witnessed to Christ both “in the catacombs” as
well in 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.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church is “experiencing a period of resurrection” in
Ukraine, he 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
Ukraine is experiencing social and economic challenges
and has changed dramatically even in five years, he said. The country
between old influences and new attempts to integrate with the broader
Contemporary Ukrainian society mistrusts government, politicians
and civil institutions, but the church, especially the Ukrainian Catholic
Church “holds great moral authority.”
“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,” he said. “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.”
Shevchuk recalled how he and a delegation of about 20 religious
leaders from Ukraine were present in the House of Commons last April
when it approved a declaration acknowledging “the heroic virtues” of
his predecessor Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky for saving the lives of
hundreds of Jewish children during the Nazi domination of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Catholic Church is marking the 100th anniversary of the
arrival of her first bishop in Canada. Shevchuk had presided at a Synod
of Bishops for the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg the
previous week to mark that centennial. Thirty-eight Ukrainian bishops
from Canada, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Australia and Western
Europe and Ukraine were present.
He thanked the Canadian Catholic bishops for their “fraternal
spirit of co-operation.”
“My brother bishops here in Canada speak highly of this body and
greatly appreciate the support and understanding our church receives
throughout Canada,” he said. “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,” he said. “That is why it
is so important for us to share in your Canadian experience worldwide,
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.”
Shevchuk said his church “participates in continuous dialogue and co-operation” with Orthodox churches, religious leaders from other Christian groups and those from Jewish and Muslim faiths as part of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations.