Home > Archives > 10 - 2005 > A Synod on the Eastern Churches
from issue no. 10 - 2005

interview with Cardina Lubomyr Husar

A Synod on the Eastern Churches

The idea is that of holding a Synod where these Churches can be presented and known, and to see whether the traditions of these Churches can contribute to solving the problems of the Church of today

interview with Cardina Lubomyr Husar by Gianni Valente

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, senior archbishop of Kiev-Halic, testified for the nth time in his speech to the October Synod that the Ukrainian Catholic Church of Eastern rite plays a controversial and ambivalent role in the ecumenical sphere, that escapes any idle classification. If the recent transfer of its Metropolitan See from Leopolis to Kiev during the summer rekindled the anger of the Patriarchy of Moscow, his words in the Synod hall before the States General of the Catholic Church sounded to some as an altogether unbalanced appeal to return to full sacramental communion between Catholics and Orthodox.
Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, senior archbishop of Kiev-Halic

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, senior archbishop of Kiev-Halic

Your Eminence, you have proposed that the next Synod be about the Eastern Catholic Churches. What would be the purpose?
LUBOMYR HUSAR: It’s not a matter of making an apologia for our Churches. And not even of having a platform from which to complain about feeling neglected, that is an abiding temptation for us Eastern Catholics. It could instead be the occasion to render a service to the universal Church. The Eastern Catholic Churches are a part of the Catholic Church with the same entitlement as the Latin Church. They are bearers of traditions of great value for the whole Church. The idea is that of holding a Synod where these Churches can be presented and known, and to see whether the traditions of these Churches can contribute to solving the problems of the Church of today.
You introduced your proposal with a rather special question.
HUSAR: Many matters could be looked at in a new light, if one starts from the perspective of the Eastern Catholic Churches. To give an example, I asked a question in interrogative terms starting from the theme dealt with in the last Synod. My premise was that there can be no doubt of the fact that the Eucharist is fons et culmen of the life and mission of the Church, and that the liturgy is regula fidei (lex orandi, lex credendi). But this is also true for the Orthodox Churches! And so, if the divine liturgy celebrated by the Eastern Churches in communion with the See of Rome and by the Orthodox or Apostolic Churches is identical, if the recognition of the apostolic sequence of bishops and, consequently, of the priests who celebrate it, is mutual then my question is: what more is needed for unity? Is there perhaps in the Church a superior instance, a culmen et fons superior to the Eucharist? And if it doesn’t exist, why isn’t con-celebration allowed?
Your question got no answer. Cardinal Sodano said that the quest for unity with the Orthodox must not create divisions among Catholics.
HUSAR: That’s his opinion. But only to begin answering this question it needs an in-depth discussion in an ad hoc Synod. I was struck by the speech from the metropolitan of Pergamum Ioannis Zizioulas, present at the Synod as a fraternal delegate of the Ecumenic Patriarchy of Constantinople. Zizioulas said the same as me. And he is precisely the man chosen by the Orthodox as co-president of the Commission for theological dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox, which should begin working again next year dealing with the subject of the primacy. His Eucharistic ecclesiology is highly esteemed. And for that matter, the Fathers already taught it: if we believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist, there are certain consequences for the life of the Church.
Your proposal was presented by the media as the idea for a Synod convoked by the Pope with the Orthodox called to participate as partners of equal right.
HUSAR: That was not my intention. I was thinking of a Synod devoted to the Churches of Eastern rite that are in communion with the Church of Rome. But even the misunderstanding of the media, at bottom, seemed a felix culpa to me. In the sense that, as a further step, obviously if the Holy Father decides it, a joint Synod with the Orthodox brethren doesn’t seem to me a bad idea at all.
Comparing the disciplinary traditions of the Latin Church and of the Churches of the East, the issue of priestly celibacy would immediately come up. What did you think of the debate on this point at the October Synod?
HUSAR: I didn’t speak on that question. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t have a settled opinion on it. My grandfather was a priest and so were many other members of my family, married and not. But with us married priests start from the time of the seminary with the prospect of marrying. The viri probati, instead, are men who are ordained priests after living thirty or even forty years of “normal” life, struggling each day to get by with their children and family. A priest should in theory conceive his life as total service to the Church. I don’t know whether such a mental habitus can be acquired at a mature age, by a man who has lived for a long time totally absorbed in his lay condition. That said, if it can happen through an adequate spiritual preparation, this condition at the start could even work out to advantage.
In what way?
HUSAR: Such a priest could perhaps understand from inside the concrete problems of his own parish. An attitude our priests often lack, who sometimes seem to live in a world apart.
Another question touched on at the Synod was the possibility of administering communion to Christians of other Churches and ecclesial communities.
HUSAR: With us the dramatic events of history are what have created the state of necessity that justifies recourse to the practise. A great many of us, during the Soviet period, were deported to Siberia. But it also happened that the Orthodox were deported to the Ukraine, to areas where there were no Orthodox parishes. Already in the ’thirties Metropolitan Andrzej Septyckyj gave disposition to administer the sacraments to the Orthodox who came with a righteous intention to ask for them in our parishes. The only thing to avoid was scandal.
Now, in the Ukraine, the Orthodox Church also seems to be split in three. But the nationalist government wants a united national Church and is putting pressure on for reunification.
HUSAR: The Church in Kiev began a thousand years ago. Then splits began. First we split into Catholics and Orthodox. Then, in recent decades, the Orthodox have split into three sections. Now President Yushchenko, as his precursor Kuchma had already done, has on several occasions repeated that the government would like to see a single united Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
What do you think about the presidential pressure?
HUSAR: I look favorably on it. I’ve already said that we too want to join in a single Ukrainian Church, on only one condition: that the patriarch of this united Church be in communion with Peter’s successor. As a Synod, we have asked the government not to hand over the Cathedral of Santa Sofia in Kiev to any of the Churches currently divided. Let them continue to keep it as a museum, till there is only one Church in Kiev and only one patriarch. The government has accepted our proposal.
In the meantime your insistence on your Church being recognised as Patriarchate continues to fuel tensions with the Patriarchate of Moscow.
HUSAR: Our request for a patriarchate is not aimed at closing the possibility of communion with the Orthodox, but precisely to enter dialogue with them as equal partners. If in the Ukraine there were three patriarchs, I’m convinced that they could work together better to patch up the unity that there was at the start.
You have declared that the Ukrainians themselves must create the unity of the Church in the Ukraine, because it can’t come «either from Moscow or from Rome». How would an eventual Ukrainian Church united and in communion with Peter’s successor behave towards the Church of Rome?
HUSAR: That would be another matter to deal with at the Synod: to clarify what it means for an Eastern Church to be in communion with the See of Peter. So the Orthodox would be able to see in advance what their fate will be, once unity has been achieved. You see, it’s also a matter of very practical things. When our Synod chooses candidates for the episcopate, I must wait a year before they are approved by Rome. I’m sure that neither Patriarch Bartholomew nor Patriarch Alexis would accept a thing of the kind. And it’s a practice that could very well be changed: it certainly doesn’t touch any essential truth of the faith.

Italiano Español Français Deutsch Português