May 20, 2021

May 28, 1971


Fifty years ago, on May 28, 1971, Archbishop-Major Josyf Cardinal Slipyj was set to arrive in Toronto, but was denied a permit by the Vatican. Reports of the Vatican refusal began to appear nearly a week before the scheduled visit, and the story was carried by numerous newspapers in the U.S. and Canada.

Msgr. Ivan Choma, the Cardinal’s personal secretary, made an official confirmation of the reports to the Associated Press, noting, “He was a prisoner in the Soviet Union [1945-1963] and seems to end up being one in the Vatican too.”

Cardinal Slipyj was scheduled to give a series of sermons on May 31 through June 4 at a spiritual retreat for Ukrainian Catholic priests, as well as preside over a Ukrainian Catholic congress in Canada in early July. It was also expected that the archbishop-major would convene an Archepiscopal Synod in June. In the U.S., he was expected to visit the Archeparchy of Philadelphia.

Conflict between Cardinal Slipyj and the Vatican escalated when Msgr. John Stock and Basil Losten were named auxiliary bishops to Archbishop-Metropolitan Ambrose Senyshyn of Philadelphia over the head of Cardinal Slipyj. The archbishop-major suggested that the consecration of the bishops-elect should be postponed until after a convocation of the Synod. The consecration went ahead on May 25 at Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Philadelphia. The Vatican’s refusal to grant a travel permit sparked demonstrations in Washington, Philadelphia and other centers of the Ukrainian diaspora in the U.S. The protests were organized by the Society for the Promotion of the Patriarchal System for the Ukrainian Catholic Church and the Ad Hoc Student Committee for the Self-Governing Ukrainian Catholic Church.

The move by the Vatican was seen by lay sources in the U.S. as an indication of the Vatican’s attempt to smooth the way for better relations with the Soviet Union. Cardinal Slipyj made his first visit to the U.S. and Canada in 1968. Hundreds of protests and petitions were sent to the Vatican to ask for reconsideration of its decision to bar the Ukrainian prelate’s visit.

Source: “Vatican bars Archbishop-Major from Canada, U.S. visit,” The Ukrainian Weekly, June 5, 1971.