Sunday, August 15, 2004

The Pope’s Ukrainian heritage
His mother: that story again. I'd always written it off as 'so many people love the reigning Pope that everybody wants to claim him' but it seems it may be true after all. Poles historically haven't been kind to their brother Slavs to the east, including those who ended up in Poland thanks to shifting borders, or their form of the Catholic faith. Metropolitan Andrew (Sheptytsky), the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church for half the 20th century, came from a similar polonized Ukrainian heritage, and Archbishop Vsevolod, Constantinople's Ukrainian Orthodox bishop in Chicago, was born in Poland and is one of the nicest people you ever could meet.

A bit of history: the Ruthenian (western Ukrainian) mountaineers in the Carpathians, most of them Byzantine Catholics, waged an heroic guerrilla war against the Communists in Poland in the 1940s - and lost. Operation Wisla destroyed their villages - including their centuries-old wooden Byzantine churches - or handed them over to Poles (some churches were given to the RCs) and the people were either deported across the border to the USSR or scattered elsewhere in Poland.

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