By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church told Canada’s bishops western secularism challenges Ukraine’s post-Communist future and underlies the worldwide economic crisis.
“The current economic crisis is merely the symptom of a much deeper spiritual and cultural crisis,” Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (CCCB) annual plenary Sept. 25. “As Western society rejects old moral structures and values, it finds that its moral GPS has no fixed and stationary points of reference.”
The first head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church to address the plenary, Archbishop 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.
“Separation of Church and State has become separation of faith values from society, yet our mission is to preach the Word of God to all, and to be a constant sign of God’s loving presence through social ministry,” he said. “Let us not be afraid of the totalitarianism of political correctness and speak the truth regardless of whom we might offend, whether it is on same-sex marriage or on the genocide of abortion.”
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,” Archbishop 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 said.
Ukraine is experiencing social and economic challenges and has changed dramatically even in five years, he said. The country seems “torn between old influences and new attempts to integrate with the broader European community.”
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.”
Archbishop 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, Blessed Nykyta Budka, in Canada. Archbishop 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, Western Europe, and Ukraine were present.
Archbishop Shevchuk thanked the Canadian Catholic bishops for their “fraternal spirit of cooperation.”
“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 world-wide, 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 cooperation” 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.