July 3, 2019


The Archbishop of Winnipeg, Most Rev. Lawrence Huculak, took a flight out of the city Wednesday (3 July) to join the Head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, and all the Archbishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church for what has been described as a "surprise" meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis. An initiative on the part of the Holy Father, the meeting was announced at the end of June on Julian Calendar Easter Sunday in Kyiv by the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, who described it as a "surprise". The Holy Father invited the highest echelon of Ukrainian Catholic leadership for a meeting with him and other department heads of the Vatican on July 5-6, 2019. What is this all about?

The announcement course has fueled a lot of speculation as to what the purpose of the meeting could be. Could it be the long-awaited official recognition of the Patriarchate of the Ukrainian Catholic Church? Perhaps it might involve the announcement of the canonization if one of the long-anticipated candidates for sainthood (or a whole slate of obvious candidates as Pope St. John Paul did back in 2001)? Perhaps it might pertain to a proposal for a new enhanced structure of the Ukrainian Catholic Church throughout the world where numerous eparchies have already grown with the great emigration of faithful from Ukraine into the 'diaspora'. Perhaps it will be something altogether different. Perhaps the goal is simply an exploratory discussion as to how the Church can best deal with lingering complications and crises. The Vatican press service spoke about the meeting being called, "as a sign of his closeness to the [Ukrainian Catholic] community and his efforts to build peace in the troubled nation [of Ukraine]". The Vatican Press release basically alluded to the pastoral purpose of the meeting by describing it as, "a further opportunity to deepen the analysis of the life and needs of Ukraine, with the aim of identifying the ways in which the Catholic Church, and in particular the [Eastern] Catholic Church, can dedicate itself ever more effectively to preaching the Gospel, contributing to the support of those who suffer and promoting peace, in agreement, as far as possible, with the Catholic Church of the Latin rite and with other Churches and Christian communities". Regardless if the meeting will mean major changes or if it will amount to something akin to a courtesy gesture of mutual esteem and respect, it is an event that will bring the visible head of the universal Catholic Church and the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and many of their faithful collaborators into an encounter and a discussion that truly will have the potential of leading to more than one "surprise".

In anticipation of the July 5-6 encounter, some of the Metropolitans and Archbishops were asked to prepare well-researched papers that would deal with various aspects of the life of the Ukrainian Catholic Church throughout the world. His Grace, Metropolitan Lawrence, perhaps due to his extensive academic background, was among those asked to prepare a document.

Not unlike the various Christian Churches around the world, the Ukrainian Catholic Church does indeed face many precarious challenges and, at the same time, many amazing opportunities. The matter is, of course, to deal with the challenges wisely, on one hand, and, on the other, take full advantage of the opportunities. At least one of the challenges and one of the opportunities are one and the same - Evangelization in the 21st Century. If the Church Leaders come away from the Vatican encounter with a new spirit and a new vision regarding the Christ-given mandate to Evangelize all peoples in every situation and in every age, this would truly be a surprise from which the whole Ukrainian Church would benefit.


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