IRONDEQUOIT — In the parking lot of St. Josaphat’s Ukrainian Catholic Church the evening of Aug. 21, a woman exclaimed that she had just seen a star shoot across the sky.
Moments before, another type of star had just exited a church-hall reception in his honor — Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, leader of the world’s Ukrainian Catholics. Cardinal Husar, the primate of Lviv, Ukraine, has also been mentioned as a dark-horse candidate for the papacy by John L. Allen, Vatican correspondent for National Catholic Reporter.
The cardinal concelebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. Josaphat’s Aug. 21 with Bishop Matthew H. Clark and Bishop Basil H. Losten, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Conn.
St. Josaphat’s is one of four Ukrainian Catholic parishes located within the boundaries of the Rochester Diocese; the others are St. Nicholas in Elmira Heights; Church of the Epiphany in Rochester; and Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Auburn. But instead of belonging to the local Roman-rite diocese they are members of the Stamford Eparchy, which comprises 54 parishes in five northeastern states.
Cardinal Husar has been a powerful advocate for his church, which was viciously persecuted by the Soviets during their rule of Ukraine. During his visit to St. Josaphat’s, he thanked the parish for its support of Catholics in Ukraine.
“We all have to stay together,” he said in his native tongue.
The cardinal fled Ukraine for the United States in the 1950s, and the church he now leads was driven underground by Soviet authorities who murdered or imprisoned Catholic clergy, religious and leaders. Indeed, St. Josaphat’s parishioners had vivid memories of the persecution suffered by the church in Ukraine. Ukrainian immigrant Maria Pawluk, now a member of the choir at St. Josaphat’s, noted that she had not enjoyed religious liberty in her homeland. She recalled her first liturgy in the United States in 1967.
“It was the first time in my life where I attended church with my mom, and it was the first time in my life I didn’t fear being arrested,” she said.
She said she enjoyed singing for the cardinal. “It was just the most festive Mass I’ve attended in my life,” Pawluk said.
The cardinal’s appearance at St. Josaphat’s was the first time since 1973 that a Ukrainian primate had visited the parish, according to the Very Rev. Kiril Angelov, pastor. The priest noted that he studied under Cardinal Husar when he was teaching in Rome, Italy, during the late 1970s.
“To welcome the head of your church is a very special occasion,” Rev. Angelov said. “We’re full of happiness.”
In addition to celebrating liturgy at St. Josaphat’s, the cardinal also conducted a prayer service at Ukrainian Catholic Church of the Epiphany in Rochester, and participated in a ceremony at Irondequoit’s Town Hall commemorating Ukraine’s 13th year of independence from Soviet rule.
The 72-year-old cardinal was apparently suffering from fatigue due to his recent travels in the northeastern United States, and had to forego being interviewed. Bishop Losten said the cardinal’s visit served two purposes — inspiring Ukrainian Catholics to keep the faith and encouraging them to contribute toward the construction of a $10 million cathedral in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital. The cathedral is being built in an area where there were no churches under communist rule, the bishop added.
Bishop Losten dismissed speculation about Cardinal Husar becoming a candidate for the papacy.
“The Holy Spirit works in delightful ways, and it’s going to be totally up to the Holy Spirit,” he said.
The bishop also addressed another issue that has arisen recently — the desire of Ukraine’s bishops to have a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate formally recognized by the Vatican. Such a recognition would put the Ukrainian Catholic Church on the same footing as other Eastern Catholic patriarchates, such as the Melkite and Maronite churches, he said.
In letters posted on the Internet in early February, the heads of most of the world’s Orthodox churches voiced objections to the erection of a Catholic patriarchate in what they consider to be the “canonical territory” of the Russian Orthodox Church, according to a report from Catholic News Service. CNS also reported that Cardinal Husar had signed a document on behalf of Ukraine’s bishops, decrying Vatican dialogue with Orthodox leaders about the patriarchate issue without the input of Ukraine’s hierarchy. Some Vatican officials reportedly are concerned that a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate might cause difficulty for Catholics in other parts of the former Soviet Union.
Bishop Losten said he believed the pope will eventually give formal approval to the Ukrainian patriarchate, however.