September 11, 2016

Communique from the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church*

Lviv-Briukhovychi, 4-11 September 2016 A.D.

From the 4th to the 11th of September 2016, the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church took place in the town of Briukhovychi near the city of Lviv. Taking part were 41 Bishops from Ukraine, countries of central and western Europe, North and South America and Australia.

The Synod began with the Divine Liturgy in the Arch Cathedral of St. George. At the close of the Divine Liturgy the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, Bishop Bohdan (Dziurakh, CSsR) read the decree regarding the convocation of the Synod and His Beatitude Sviatoslav solemnly declared the Synod open. Greetings were also addressed to those gathered by special guests: Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Papal Nuncio to Ukraine, and His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory III, the Head of the Melkite Greco-Catholic Church.

The original icon “The Door of Mercy” of the Most Holy Theotokos was exhibited in the Cathedral of St. George for public veneration. The Metropolitan of Peremyshyl-Warsaw, Archbishop Eugene Popowicz brought the icon from the city of Jaroslaw, Poland for the occasion of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC. It is this very icon that, upon request of Pope Francis, was brought to be present for the solemn Mass at the opening of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in Rome.

On the evening of the same day that the Synod was opened, a Moleben’ to the Holy Spirit was prayed and all members of the Synod made a solemn oath that was read by Bishop Basil Losten – who, among all the bishops then present, was most senior according to episcopal consecration. After this, His Beatitude Patriarch Gregory III addressed the gathering with a fraternal message.   

At the first plenary session on 5 September 2016, the Synod Fathers heard greetings from a number of invited guests, including: Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine; Bishop Leon Malyj, representing the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference in Ukraine; His Eminence Dymytriy (Rudok), the Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan of Lviv & Sokal for the Kyivan Patriarchate; Ihumen Markian Kayumov representing Bishop Filaret of Lviv and Halych for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Father Vasyl' Hovera, who is the Apostolic Delegate for Ukrainian Catholics in Kazakhstan and Central Asian Countries, read a letter of greeting from the Kazakhstan Bishops Conference. Archimandrite Sergius Gayek, the Apostolic Visitator for Byzantine Catholics in Belarus also delivered a message in Belarusian.

Also among the special guests invited to the Synod were: the Auxiliary-Bishop of the Eparchy of Mukachevo Bishop Nil (Lushchak); the Vicar for Ukrainian Catholics in Rumania, Father Michael Dubovych; and Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt for the Syro-Malabar Church in India who spoke about ‘diakonia’ in his own sui iuris church.

The Head of the UGCC then delivered a report to the Synod in which he characterized the past year as a period of realizing the decisions of the Patriarchal Council (Sobor) that took place in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine. His Beatitude Sviatoslav summarized the results of the post-conciliar conferences that took place in all the eparchies and noted that their positive results were noticeable. This was also a year of continued implementation of the strategy for development of the UGCC to the year 2020, “The Vibrant Parish – The Place to Encounter the Living Christ”.

Social service in the UGCC was the principal theme of the Synod. In presenting this theme, the main speaker was Fr. Andrew Nahirnjak together with other experts - Ksenia Hapij; Gregory Seleshchuk; and Andrij Waskowycz. They explained that serving one’s neighbour is one of the priorities of the strategy for the growth of the Church. Social service is an expression of the diaconal nature of the Church being part of its triune mission to Proclaim the Good News, Sanctify and Serve.

The Synod heard the report of the Secretary of the Synod and Administrator of the Patriarchal Curia, Bishop Bohdan (Dziurakh, CSsR) who spoke of the activity of the Patriarchal Curia over the past year. The heads of other Synodal committees and departments also gave reports. The progress in the realization of the Vision 2020 program was also reviewed, as was the development of military chaplaincy. The Bishops were also updated on the present situation with the building of the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ and the Patriarchal Centre – both in Kyiv.  

The Synod gave their approval to a number of regulations, statutes and internal documents of the Synod that were prepared by the Secretariat of the Synod and the Canonical Department of the Patriarchal Curia. The Synod Fathers also considered questions of personnel.

The Synod decided to approve the celebration of the following anniversaries on the level of the entire Church - the 400th Anniversary of the Basilian Order, the 380th Anniversary since the death of Metropolitan Veliamyn Rutskyj; the 150th Anniversary of the Canonization of the Hieromartyr St. Josaphat Kuntsevych and the 125th Anniversary since the birth of Patriarch Joseph Slipyj.

On Wednesday, September 7th, the members of the Synod, led by Most Blessed Sviatoslav, prayed a panakhyda (memorial service) at Lviv’s Lychakiv Cemetery for the soldiers that died in eastern Ukraine defending the country’s independence and territorial integrity. Many families of those killed participated in the prayer and, together with the bishops, they placed candles on the soldiers’ graves. After the formalities, the bishops met freely with the relatives of the fallen heroes.  

Every day Rev. Dr. Myroslaw Tataryn from Canada preached a sermon at the Divine Liturgy. One entire day of the Synod was designated as a day of spiritual renewal. The Bishops made a pilgrimage to the city of Peremyshlyany where the Priest and Martyr, Blessed Omelian Kovch once served in the church of St. Nicholas; and they continued on to the [Studite] Holy Dormition Monastery at the village of Univ. Along the way, Father Myroslav led the bishops with spiritual talks.

The Fathers of the Synod sent messages of greeting to the Holy Father Pope Francis; to the President of Ukraine; to the Prime Minister of Ukraine; to the Speaker of Ukraine’s Parliament - the Supreme Council; to the Oecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, to the President of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference of Ukraine; to Heads of the Patriarchal Eastern Catholic Churches; to the Primates of the Orthodox Churches; and to others.

On Saturday, September 10th, the Divine Liturgy and a panakhyda were offered for the deceased hierarchs of the UGCC. On that day, in the Cathedral of Saint George, the members of the Synod participated in a Moleben’ to God’s Mercy, and then took part in a prayerful procession with the “Door of Mercy” icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. They made their way to the newly-built church of Holy Sophia – the Wisdom of God located at the Ukrainian Catholic University. On the next day, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, together with all the Bishops, consecrated the new church.   

It was decided that the next Synod of Bishops of the UGCC would take place 3-12 September 2017 A.D. in the city of Lviv-Briukhovychi, and the principal theme will be the liturgical and prayer life of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.  


*an unofficial English translation

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