A Communiqué on the Synod of Bishops of UGCC

Wednesday, 09 September 2015, 09:31
A communiqué of UGCC Synod of Bishops (Ivano-Frankivsk, 30th of August – 6th of September, 2015)

The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church gathered in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, from August 30 to September 6 in the Year of Our Lord, 2015. In attendance were 40 bishops from Ukraine, Central and Western Europe, North and South America, and Australia.

The Synod officially began with the celebration of a Hierarchical Divine Liturgy in Holy Resurrection Cathedral on August 30. At the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, Bishop Bohdan (Dzyurakh) read the decree of convocation, and His Beatitude Sviatoslav declared the Synod officially opened.

Following lunch the members of the Synod visited Damianiv Laz, a ravine near Ivano-Frankivsk, where mass graves of innocent victims of the Soviet Secret Police (NKVD) are found. The Bishops, joined by a multitude of local inhabitants, celebrated a memorial service (Panakhyda) for the repose of the deceased. On the same day, at 6:00 PM, following a Moleben Service to the Holy Spirit in the chapel of St. Josaphat Seminary of the Archeparchy of Ivano-Frankivsk, all members of the Synod of Bishops took an oath of confidentiality, which was read by Bishop Irynei (Bilyk), the eldest present according to episcopal consecration.

The first working session began on Monday, August 31, 2015 A.D. in the main hall of St. Josaphat Seminary of the Archeparchy of Ivano-Frankivsk. The Apostolic Nuncio in Ukraine, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, passed on greetings from the Holy Father to the Synod and in his remarks noted that the theme of the Vibrant Parish is central for the life of the Church in different life circumstances, especially in a time of foreign aggression. He encouraged the Bishops to do everything possible to build up parish life for proclaiming the Word of God, and he wished the Synod success in its work. The Synod was also greeted by Bishop Roland Minnerath, Archbishop of Dijon, representative of the French Catholic Bishops Conference. Bishop Terence Curtin read greetings from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. Bishop Donato Oliverio of Lungro in Italy read greetings in the name of the Italian Bishops Conference. Fr. Vasyl Buyak offered salutations on behalf of the Metropolitan of Ivano-Frankivsk and Halych of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kyivan Patriarchate. The Synod also received written greetings from Cardinal Reinhart Marx , President of the German Catholic Bishops Conference, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, His Beatitude Lubomyr (Husar) and Metropolitan-emeritus of Philadelphia, Stephen Sulyk. Also present as guests were: Bishop Milan Shashik of the Eparchy of Mukachevo, Bishop Nil Lushchak, Auxiliary for Mukachevo, Fr. Vasyl Hovera, Apostolic Delegate for Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Kazakhstan, Archimandrite Serge Gayek, Apostolic Visitator for Greek-Catholics in Belarus and Fr. Mykhailo Dubovic, Vicar General for Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Romania.

Subsequently, the Head of the Church (His Beatitude Sviatoslav) delivered a keynote address, in which he noted that “in the course of the past year the life of our Church in Ukraine as well as abroad was marked by a word that is not new, but nonetheless terrible – war. In speaking of the social circumstances and pastoral ministry of our Church we can say that in Ukraine we find ourselves dealing with the greatest humanitarian crisis in Europe sine the Second World War.” In the words of the Primate “our Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is engaged in active ministry in response to the needs of Ukrainian society.”

That same day the Synod began deliberations on its main theme: “Parish ministry and new challenges.” The key presention was delivered by Bishop Ken (Nowakowski), with additional presentations delivered by Bishop Bohdan (Danylo) and Rev. Dr. Andrew Onuferko. Bishops Brian (Bayda), Borys (Gudziak) and Venedykt (Aleksijchuk) shared their experiences of implementing the program of Strategic Development of the UGCC till 2020.

The Synod received reports and addresses from the heads of various Synodal Commissions, the heads of Patriarchal Commissions, the Head of the Office for External Church Relations of the UGCC, and others. Bishop Bohdan (Manyshyn) spoke on the activity of the Coordinating Center for Crisis Ministry. He also presented the issue of chaplaincy with the Ukrainian Armed Forces and other military formations. The Synod gave its blessing to create rehabilitation centers for soldiers and victims of war in Ukraine. The Synod Fathers also received a report from Mr. Andrij Waskowycz, Director of Caritas Ukraine, on the activity of this organization in the context of war in Ukraine.

The Synod reviewed the resolutions of the VI-th Session of the Patriarchal Assembly (Sobor) on the theme: “The Vibrant Parish: a Place to Encounter the Living Christ,” which was held in Ivano-Frankivsk on August 25-27, 2015. A report on the Sobor was presented by Rev. Dr. Oleh Kaskiv, the Sobor’s General Secretary. Following productive working group sessions, the Synod Fathers voted to receive the recommendations of the VI-th Session of the Patriarchal Assembly and renewed the mandate of the Working Group for the Implementation of the Strategic Development of the UGCC till 2020. The Synod called upon patriarchal and eparchial departments, sections and commissions, educational and academic institutions, monasteries, orders and religious congregations, parish communities, church organizations and all the faithful to consider the resolutions of VI-th Session of the Patriarchal Assembly (Sobor) of the UGCC, “The Vibrant Parish: a Place to Encounter the Living Christ,” especially in pastoral planning, in the spirit of their Eastern-Christian tradition and according to ecclesial legislation.

The Synod approved a number of instructions, statutes and forms, prepared by the Canonical section of the Patriarchal Curia. The Synod also approved a new edition of Ecumenical Guidelines of the UGCC for a five-year term, and also welcomed the decision of the Sobor of the Eparchy of Kharkiv-Poltava of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC) and espressed an openness to jointly explore the restoration of eucharistic communion and administrative unity between the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and the Eparchy of Kharkiv-Poltava of the UAOC.

The Synod approved an Instruction for Communion of children and infants in the UGCC and an Order for the Catechumenate as well as a Christian Initiation Liturgy. The Bishops were informed of ongoing work on a UGCC Catechism for youth. Also, the Synod approved a proposal regarding the celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Divine Mercy in the UGCC.

The members of the Synod received with great trepidation the news of the bloody attack outside the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) in Kyiv on August 31 and released an “Appeal of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC regarding the spilling of blood in front of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on August 31, 2015,” which called upon “the faithful of our Church throughout the world and all people of good will to pray more fervently for the victims and members of their families.”

The Synod of Bishops prepared letters to: the Holy Father, Francis Pope of Rome; Ukrainian soldiers; the President of Ukraine; the Prime Minister of Ukraine; the Speaker of the Verkhova Rada; Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew; the Heads of Patriarchal Eastern Catholic Churches; Patriarch Philaret, Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyivan Patriarchate; Metropolitan Onuphrius, Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; Metrpolitan Makariy, Head of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church; leaders of Protestant communities; leaders of non-Christian religious communities, and others.

The Synod Fathers visited the princely city of Krylos (ancient Halych), where they prayed at Vespers before the miraculous Halych icon of the Mother of God and visited the Historical Museum of ancient Halych.

During the work of the Synod, on September 3, the Bishops met with military chaplains of the UGCC and viewed a documentary film, “Chaplains,” produced by the creative group “Zhyve Telebachennya” (Live TV).

Rev. Dr. Andriy Chirovsky preached to the Bishops each day at the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. He also conducted a day of spiritual renewal for the Synodal Fathers. In his talks he drew extensively upon the spiritual patrimony of Venerable Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky.

On Saturday, September 5, a Divine LIturgy and memorial service (Panakhyda) was celebrated for members of the Synod of Bishops most recently reposed.

It was decided to hold the next Synod of Bishops of the UGCC  September 2016 A.D. in the town of Briukhovychi, near Lviv.

The Synod closed September 6, with a solemn Hierarchical Divine Liturgy celebrated in Holy Resurrection Cathedral, followed by a memorial service (Panakhyda) for bishops interred in the church’s crypt.

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