Book Review by Fr John Salter
My first meeting with Cardinal Patriarch Lubomyr Husar was in 1995 at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic centre in Rome, the College of SS. Sergius and Bacchus near the Coliseum and down the hill from Santa Maria Maggiore and the Russicum, or Russian College. We were on an excursion together on a 64 ’bus to the Leonine bookshop opposite St. Peter’s basilica. He was enthusiastic about finding some books by “Dr. Timothy Ware”. Mission accomplished we travelled back together for supper at SS.
Sergius and Bacchus. It became apparent in the bookshop that Father Lubomyr’s eyesight was far from strong and that he was going blind. He found it difficult to read and to recognize faces.
discovered that Father Lubomyr was the igumen or abbot of the Studite community in Rome, but had returned to the Ukraine and was back in the Eternal City on a visit. I had no idea that he was a secret bishop. He and two others had been secretly consecrated to the episcopate by Cardinal Patriarch Josyf Slipyj, whilst the latter was in exile in the Vatican City after years spent in the Soviet gulags. Slypyj was determined that Vatican ostpoliticking should not cause the total liquidation of his Church, which had suffered so much because of its loyalty to the Apostolic See in general and to the person of the Holy Father in particular. Validly but illicitly consecrated as far as the Holy See was concerned, the Cardinal Patriarch had ensured by his unilateral action that the Greek Catholic hierarchy would be secure when Ukraine’s liberation was at hand. Lubomyr Husar had kept his secret in a City where ecclesiastical secrets are notoriously hard to keep.
Dining in Rome in 1995 with Father Lubomyr and Bishop Basil Losten, then the Exarch for Ukrainians in Stamford, Connecticut, I learned that they were concerned as to how they might celebrate the following year the 400th anniversary of the Union of Brest, without antagonizing the Orthodox. Father Lubomyr was anxious that the Orthodox might be involved in some way. I saw at once that he was a true heir and successor to the great ecumenist and irenecist, Metropolitan Count Andrei Sheptytsky. Having survived the horrors of Nazism, seeing men murdered on his way to school, and Communism, which almost destroyed his beloved Church, he saw that there was a better way and that Christians ought to be leading along it.
The restoration of the so-called Uniate hierarchy had commenced with the arrival from exile of Cardinal Patriarch Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky (Patriarch 1984 – 2000), who was greeted by tens of thousands of Greek Catholics on his arrival in Lviv, an event which surprised the government and the Vatican.
The person who interviewed Cardinal Lubomyr for this fascinating book is Professor Antoine Arjakovsky, an Orthodox Frenchman, but of Russian extraction, who in his well chosen texts and spoken interviews brings out the down-to-earthness of the Cardinal, and his quiet sense of humour. Arjakovsky is a professional diplomat, a theologian and historian, and an interpreter of some of the great Russian thinkers of the twentieth century; he is the grandson of the recently canonised Orthodox martyr, Archpriest Dmitri Klepinin. He gives an amusing account of the story Cardinal Lubomyr told him of the latter’s grandfather, a Greek Catholic priest, who developed an unpleasant rash on his face. On consulting his doctor he was told to grow a beard and this relieve the scraping of a razor every day. Permission for this Uniate priest to grow a beard had to be sought from far-off Rome! Lubomyr gives this as an example of the worst for of ‘Uniatism’.
Dr Arjakovsky has produced a lively book in which the humanity and humour of Cardinal Lubomyr shine through, despite the trials he has endured and is now going through with the gradual loss of his sight. He will be like his predecessors in Lviv and no in Kiev a Confessor of the faith and a witness to Christian Unity through his total loyalty to the Apostolic See, won after much persecution and misunderstanding.
Cardinal Lubomyr, like the great Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky, makes one thing clear: namely that Union with the Universal-Catholic Church does not mean submission to the Pope as to the Patriarch of the West (a title now dropped from the Annuario Pontificio), but an acceptance of his supreme authroity as Father and Pastor of the Universal Church, over and above any concept of a Western Patriarchate. The difference is fundamental: the Pope as Pope is not Latin, but Catholic.