Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Eastern churches
The 7th September was the 21st anniversary of the death of Metropolitan Joseph (Slipyj)
His Beatitude Josyf began his road as martyr on the night of April 10th, 1945. That night, the night of his arrest, began a long period of torture – first in Lviv, in the prison on Lontskoho Street, and then in Kyiv in the prison on Korolenka Street. His torturers tried to force him to repudiate the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Holy See. Afterwards, he suffered for many years in concentration camps, with their unspeakable living conditions, and the Soviet Empire was so rich in these camps… Even in those hardships, His Beatitude found opportunities to secretly celebrate the Most Holy Eucharist at Liturgies for our persecuted Church and over the course of many years, for hundreds of thousands of his imprisoned fellow-countrymen. To support the latter in their sufferings, he even managed to send them pastoral letters.
A hero: the kind of iron man that traditionalism East and West can produce. As Jaroslav Pelikan described him in his biography Confessor Between East and West, he had the best of Tridentine RC theology (trained at Innsbruck and was a seminary professor before becoming a bishop) and later adopted the more Eastern high-church externals of his saintly predecessor, Metropolitan Andrew (Sheptytsky).

Unknown to many at the time including I think in Rome itself the Ukrainian Catholic Church in their homeland of old Polish Galicia still existed after Metropolitan Josyf’s imprisonment and release to the West in 1963*: a truly underground church, literally in hiding, under Metropolitan Vladimir (Sterniuk). Thus they surprised everybody when they surfaced at the end of the 1980s during гласность/the beginning of the end of the USSR to take back their churches!

*One wonders at what price though: might this have been a result of Vatican Ostpolitik, the rumoured Vatican-Moscow agreement well known among traditionalists that tried to ease persecution of Catholics behind the Iron Curtain (thanks, FDR, for selling out half of Catholic Europe) by promising not to condemn Communism at Vatican II? I imagine that the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad wanted the council to do that. Reflecting the 19th-century Russian tradition they come from, they weren’t at the time particularly hostile to other Christians and sent observers to V2 because they looked up to the late Pope Pius XII as an anti-Communist Christian leader.

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