Weeklong celebrations in Rome mark elevation of Cardinal Lubomyr Husar

by Marta Kolomayets
Special to The Ukrainian Weekly

ROME - Archbishop Major Lubomyr Husar, primate of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church worldwide, was elevated to the rank of cardinal by Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday morning, February 21.

He was one of 44 cardinals - the largest number in history - who took part in an ecclesiastical assembly, known as a consistory, for the creation of new cardinals. More than 30,000 people witnessed this regal two-hour outdoor ceremony under the warmth of the Roman sun.

Significantly, Archbishop Major Husar wore the hooded black cloak of his Studite monastic order, adorned with gold ribbons etched in red silk threads, thus emphasizing the uniqueness of the Eastern Church.

He and two patriarchs from the Eastern Rite, Moussa I Doud of Syria (now the prefect for the Congregation of Eastern Churches) and Stephanos II of Alexandria, did not receive the traditional red skullcap and cardinal's biretta, a silk-covered square hat with no brim, from the holy father. After the profession of faith and the taking of the oath, each new cardinal knelt before the pope to receive the bull of the creation of cardinals, to be assigned a title or deaconry, and to exchange a kiss of peace.

Amid a sea of red caps and capes, the Ukrainian Catholic prelate moved from cardinal to cardinal, exchanging a kiss of peace with fellow new members of the College of Cardinals. The Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen, who turned 68 on Monday, February 26, was granted the "titular" church of St. Sofia, built by the late Patriarch Josyf Slipyj on the outskirts of Rome in the early 1970s.

Cardinal Husar was one of four cardinals named from countries once dominated by the Soviet Union - an important sign from the Holy See, which wishes to show the openness of the Roman Catholic Church to the East and to underscore the pope's determination that the Church should "breath with both lungs." Vatican insiders say this is also a signal that the Roman Catholic Church is ready and willing to engage in dialogue with the Orthodox Church as the pope prepares to visit Ukraine on June 23-27 of this year.

Also elevated to the rank of cardinal were Janis Pujats, 70, archbishop of Riga, Latvia; Audrys Juozas Backis, 64, archbishop of Vilnius, Lithuania; and Marian Jaworski, 74, archbishop of Lviv for the Roman Catholics. Cardinal Jaworski, who like Cardinal Husar is a native of Lviv, is an old friend of the pope from Krakow.

"In making Patriarch Husar a cardinal, I think that the holy father underlines how much he cherishes, respects and loves the Church of Ukraine - be it of the Eastern or Latin Rite. And, he wants to be greeted by two cardinals when he comes to Ukraine," said the Rev. Dr. Iwan Dacko, who is responsible for the external relations of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church.

"This pope has paid particular attention to Church life in Ukraine. Over four years ago, when Bishop Lubomyr was made auxiliary head of the Church, and now, there is no question that these are signs of a particular trust and favor that this holy father has in Lubomyr Husar. The pope's Polish origins and his understanding about the fate of Ukraine has been the source of this attention," said the Rev. Dr. Borys Gudziak, rector of the Lviv Theological Academy.

Cardinal Husar was not on the list of the first 37 cardinals nominated on January 21; he did, however, appear on the second list of seven designated cardinals that Pope John Paul II announced one week later, on January 28. It is clear that the pope wanted to honor the Ukrainian Catholics who have suffered persecution throughout the 20th century, but he chose to wait for the election of Bishop Husar (which happened on January 25 but was announced on January 28) by the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Bishops before he named him a cardinal.

A statement issued by Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls in late January noted that everything hinged on the election of Bishop Husar as head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church; the holy father held a few names back to announce after the election of Bishop Husar by the Synod of Bishops.

In a recent article about the new cardinals, published in the monthly magazine Inside the Vatican, editor Robert Moynihan reported that the Eastern Churches are "steppingstones on the road toward the Orthodox."

Mrsgr. Dacko explained: "And, as far as ecumenical dialogue is concerned - it is difficult in Ukraine, but it is precisely our patriarch, Cardinal Husar, who is the person for such a dialogue. He is an open man, he is a man who was brought up on the works of Sheptytsky, worked directly under Patriarch Josyf, Cardinal Slipyj, followed under Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky, whom he now succeeds."

"And, I think he is very highly respected in Ukrainian Orthodox circles, so for him the ecumenical dimension will definitely be a priority for our Church," added Msgr. Dacko.

A week of celebrations

The celebrations of this historic event began on Tuesday afternoon, February 20, when Archbishop Major Husar arrived at Leonardo Da Vinci airport located on the periphery of Rome. A delegation of more than 50 bishops, Ukrainian government officials, clergy, nuns, family and faithful came out to the airport to welcome their spiritual leader with the traditional bread and salt, flowers and good wishes.

Among those greeting Archbishop Major Husar were Msgr. Claudio Gugerotti, undersecretary for the Eastern Congregation; Bishops Ivan Khoma and Basil Losten; Lviv Oblast Administration Chairman Stefan Semchuk; Lviv Mayor Vasyl Kuybida; and Ukraine's Ambassador to the Vatican Nina Kovalska.

Visibly moved, the cardinal-designate thanked all those present, and made time to take photos with members of his family, who came from the United States and Canada to witness the elevation of their uncle. He then traveled to his residence at Ss. Sergius and Bacchus Ukrainian Catholic Church and guesthouse, where he hosted a dinner for the heads of Ukrainian institutions in Rome, such as the Basilian Fathers, Basilian Sisters, Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, seminarians from the Ukrainian Pontifical Seminary of St. Josaphat's, family and friends.

On Wednesday morning Archbishop Major Husar became a "prince of the Church," as cardinals are known, and a member of the College of Cardinals, which elects the pope. He is the sixth Ukrainian cardinal; his predecessors were Isidore of Kyiv (15th century), Mykhailo Levytsky (19th century), Sylvester Sembratovych (19th century), and Josyf Slipyj and Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky in the 20th century.

The installation was followed by a lunch at the Ss. Sergius and Bacchus guesthouse. Best wishes were voiced by an official delegation from Ukraine, headed by Anatoliy Orel, formerly Ukraine's ambassador to Italy and currently the deputy head of the presidential administration of Leonid Kuchma. Some of the cardinal's colleagues, among them Bishops Sofron Mudryi and Yulian Gbur, offered greetings to the new cardinal. Bishop Gbur commented on both the weather in Rome and the feeling in his soul: "The sun has warmed us today and spring has arrived for our Church."

Perhaps most moving was a brief statement from Cardinal Husar's niece and goddaughter, Maria Rypan of Toronto, who acted as the family spokesperson for a delegation of 21 nephews and nieces, their spouses and children. They came from as far away as Toronto, Detroit and Kansas City. Her voice cracking, Ms. Rypan conveyed best wishes from her mother, Marta, Cardinal Husar's older sister, who could not attend the celebrations because she is gravely ill, and her father, Zenon Wasylkevych.

Ms. Rypan spoke of how proud the family was of their uncle, noting that witnessing such an event "was an honor beyond words."

"We always knew that our uncle would achieve great things," she added. "Duty always comes first for him, but family is important, and he tries to make time for us," she added.

During a week of many public events, audiences, courtesy calls, banquets and receptions, Cardinal Husar managed to steal away some private moments to spend with his family, presenting his goddaughter with a ticket to receive communion from the holy father. The nine children from the family, ranging in age from 3 to 18, received tickets to the papal audience, where they were able to individually go up to the pope and receive his blessing.

The smallest of them, Mateyko Hudz, 3, violated protocol at the papal audience when, after being blessed by Pope John Paul II, he remembered that he forgot to say bye-bye and ran up to the 80-year-old pontiff to do so.

On Wednesday afternoon, the newly installed cardinals received all those faithful who wished to pay them a courtesy call at the Pope Paul VI Hall in the Vatican. Cardinal Husar spent more than two hours meeting the faithful and greeting his guests. Afterwards he attended a dinner with all of his Ukrainian Catholic bishops who had come for the celebrations, including Bishops Khoma, Mudryi, Gbur, Yulian Voronovsky, Volodymyr Yuschak, Petro Kryk, Michael Wiwchar, Michael Hrynchyshyn and Losten.

On Thursday morning, February 22, the Feast of the Chair of Peter, the holy father presided at a mass with the new cardinals. During this open-air service the Holy See gave each new cardinal a ring, a "sign of dignity, pastoral care and the most solid communion with the See of Peter."

The celebratory mood continued on Thursday evening for Cardinal Husar, who hosted a banquet on the grounds of the Ukrainian Catholic University and the Church of St. Sofia, institutions that had been built by his spiritual adviser and teacher, Patriarch Josyf.

Friday began with a papal audience for all of the cardinals and their families, friends and faithful. As the pope acknowledged each new cardinal, he addressed them and their delegations in their native languages. Speaking to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic faithful, the pontiff spoke of his desire to visit Ukraine later this year.

Cardinal Husar spent the final days before his departure to the United States for the installation of U.S. Metropolitan Stefan Soroka in Philadelphia calling on old friends and colleagues; at the Congregation for Oriental Churches, where he met with the retired head of the Congregation Cardinal Achille Silvestrini; at St. Josaphat's, where he lunched with the new American cardinals as well as Msgr. George Sarauskas, the director of the U.S. Bishops Conference office to aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe. Cardinal Husar also met with Archimandrite Robert Taft, vice-rector of the Pontifical Oriental Institute, and his colleagues at the Basilian Fathers' residence.

Many of these events were facilitated by Archimandrite Giovanni Scarabelli, a good friend of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, who serves the pastoral needs of the new wave of immigrants from Ukraine. Assisting the monsignor in the arrangements were the Rev. Mark Morozovich and the Rev. Ken Nowakowski, the Lviv-based press secretary for the Ukrainian Catholic Church.

On Friday evening a pre-departure dinner was held at Ss. Sergius and Bacchus, which was attended by both Lviv cardinals - Husar and Jaworski - as well as the Ukrainian officials from Lviv. In a very relaxed atmosphere, the guests waxed poetic about their hometown throughout the evening. Greetings were delivered from native Lvivites, such as the mayor and governor, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, including Cardinal Franciszek Macharski of Krakow and Archbishop Stanislav Dziwisz, the pope's personal secretary. Offering greetings from the Western diaspora was Prof. Myroslav Labunka.

After a week of celebrations in Rome, the Ukrainian cardinal brought the festivities to a close with a hierarchical liturgy at the Sobor of St. Sofia. More than 600 people attended the service concelebrated by six bishops and more than two dozen Ukrainian Catholic priests. Many of the faithful, natives of Ukraine who are currently working in Italy, listened attentively to Bishop Khoma's inspirational greeting and prayers referring to Cardinal Husar, movingly drawn from the words of Cardinal Slipyj.

In his sermon on the eve of the Great Lent, Cardinal Husar spoke to the faithful of his Church, contemplating the past, present and future of the once persecuted Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. He said that "whereas in the 20th century the enemy of the Church, the enemy of the people was clear, today the enemy may not be so easy to identify. Once we could point to a system that preached a world without God, a world without faith," he continued. "Today the enemy is much harder to identify and we continue to struggle between good and evil."

"Today it is the lust for money and power that is the enemy, that wants to rid us of a normal, honest human life; today our struggle is against our passions as we fight not to become prisoners of sin, as we struggle to be free from temptation in order to be able to do good deeds, to respect one another, to support one another," he said.

"In our daily lives we must have the foundation of Christ's teachings, of truth, fairness and love for one another. And we must make clear choices - either we are for God, or against God - but this choice is not easy. The Great Lent is a time to set goals for your life, to make choices for yourself and stick to those choices," continued Cardinal Husar.

"Let us remember that the merciful God gave us the grace that our Church and our people survived the persecution of their faith," the Ukrainian Catholic primate underscored. "And despite the many wounds that we received and from which we are still healing, despite all of this, our people kept their faith - they did not stop being human beings, they did not stop being Ukrainians - and we must continue to be courageous and stay true to our convictions. We must continue to stand unwavering on the side of God."

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, March 4, 2001, No. 9, Vol. LXIX

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