Communique of UGCC Synod of Bishops

Thursday, 18 September 2014, 10:29
Communique of the Synod of Bishops in the Year of the Lord 2014, of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (Lviv, Briukhovychi, September 7-14, Year of the Lord 2014)

Introduction

During September 7-14  of the Year of the Lord 2014, in the city of Lviv the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church took place,  Some 40 bishops from Ukraine, Central and Western Europe, North and South America, and  Australia participated in the Synod.  

This Holy Synod took place in the year when the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church celebrates its 25th anniversary of legalization after more than 40 years of existence in  catacombs during the rule of the soviet regime.  The anniversary became an oportunity to   thank and praise the Lord for the gift of  stauchness in faith and love of God, the Church and one's people which the  UGCC faithful expressed during the times of persecution.  The mentioned jubilee is also a good opportunity to honor the martyrs,  the ones who suffered  and the confessors of faith who suffered because of their love for God, the Church and their brethern and  who became the spiritual foundation of the freedom of UGCC and the renovation of the Ukrainian State.

Through God's providence, the 2014 Synod began on the day commemorating the 30th anniversary of  the passage into eternity of   Josyf Slipyj (1892-1984), a great pastor and the liviing embodiment of the fate, needs and endeavours  of the Ukrainian Church and nation.  On this occasion  within the Synod there was a presentation of the published memoirs  of this servant of God, Josyf Slipyj. Memoirs.  This valuable book was published by the Ukrainian Catholic University, the Institute of St. Clement the Pope, and the Institute of Ecumenical Studies,  and was edited ny Rev. Dr. Ivan Datsko and Ms. Maria Horiacha.  Also the synod fathers received the book The Road to Eternity.  On the 30th anniversary of the departure of His Beatitude Patriarch Josyf Slipyj (1892-1984). Materials  about the death and funeral. (Compiler, Dr. Iryna Ivankovych and Rev. Lic. Marko Yaroslav Semehen, Rome).

The beginning of the Synod

The official opening of the Holy Synod  took place on Sunday, September 7,  Year of the Lord 2014  in the Archcathedral of St. George in Lviv with a solemn Pontifical Liturgy attended by numerous bishops, priests, laity, especially youth.  In his remarks, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, UGCC Father and Head,  greeted all on the occasion of the opening of the  Synod and thanked the guests for  attending – Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Thomas Edward Hallickson and the representatives of the Bishops Conferences of USA, Germany, France, and Italy.

Referring to the reading of the Sunday Gospel  (Mt.21, 33-42), His Beatitude Sviaoslav noted that the parable about the vineyard summarizes the history of the interaction of communication between God and man: “The Lord did not only plant a vineyard.  He entrusted it to his followers, in other words to all those who carry His Word.  He expects from man a fruitful activity in his vineyard.  Because the vineyard is the property not of man but of God.”  The preacher also said that everyone who is called to work in God's vineyyard, should in time provide a report  on the harvest to His owner.

On that day the bishops led by UGCC Prelate, prayed to the Holy Spirit, asking for themselves God's assistance in order to better recognize God's plans for UGCC, so that their synodal activity realizes not the plans of people, but those of God.

Work meetings of the Holy Synod began on September 8th.  The bishops heard the greetings of the representative of the American Bishops Conference, Bishop Blaise Supich, the representative of the German Bishops Conference, Bishop Stefan Akkerman, the representative of the French Bishops Conference, Bishop Gerard Dokur, the representative of the Italian Bishops Conference, Bishop Donato

Oliverio, the representative of Polish Bishops Conference, Bishop Mar'ian Royeka and the Head of the Bishops Conference of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, Metropolitan Mechyslav Mokshynskyj.  The Apostolic Nuncio in Ukraine Archbishop Thomas Edward Hallickson, as a representative of the  Pope of Rome in Ukraine, assured the synodal fathers of the blessing of Holy Father Francis and wished them fruitful work.   Among invited guests participating in the Synod  were: Rev. Bohdan Danylo, nominated as the Administrative Bishop of the Parma Eparchy  in the USA;  Rev. Vasyl Hovera,  Apostolic Delegate  for Greek-Catholic Ukrainians in Kazakhstan; Rev. Mykhaylo Dubovych, General Vicar  for Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Romania; Archmandrite Serhiy Hayek, Apostolic Visitator for Belarusian Greek-Catholic Church.

On the first day of the meetings His Beatitude Sviatoslav in his scheduled speech analyzed the position in which  the  UGCC eixsts today, the Ukrainian State, and the people, and also presented actual goals and challenges which face the Church.  In particular, the Church Head noted “The central theme of the Synod is responsibility  for God's gifts.  Let us look at this responsibility in the new circumstances in which our Church lives.  Let us look at these gifts  of which until very recently we were not conscious. Let us look at these gifts which the Lord God grants us today.”  The Church Prelate  emphasized the importance of realizimg UGCC Strategy by 2020 “A living parish is the place of the meeting  with the living Christ” and stressed the significance of being with one's people, especially in their greatest needs.

  In the process of discussing this speech the synodal fathers noted that the whole world saw  how during the last few months on Ukrainian territoris the outside aggressor cynically violates  Christian values, God's commendments and international laws.  Therefore, the hierarchs published a Synodal Appeal “Ukraine is drenched in blood” in the name of the Ukrainian people, raising its voice to all people of good will, country leaders, world communities, to all who have the authority to pass inevitable decisions for the renewal of peace and safety:  “Stop the bloodshed in Ukraine”.  Once more the appeal  was directed to all people of good will to join in  intensified prayers for the ending of aggression and a renewal of permanent and total peace in Ukraine.

Main topic  

On Moday, September 8, Year of the Lord 2014, UGCC Synod of Bishops focused on  examining the main topic “Managing God's gifts – a Christian way of life” one of the directions of the strategies of  development of UGCC  by 2020 “A living parish – the place of meeting the living Christ.”  The bishops contemplated on how to treat God's granted gifts – time, natural and spiritual talents and material resources  (“treasures”)...  It was noted that man is not the owner of all this, but only a manager, thus, in  responding to God's call, one should share these gifts with others and return them to the service of preaching God's Kingdom in the world.  To responsibly manage God's gifts – means to realize and express one's membership to the only Church body and lead such a life which depends on sharing these gifts with others, especially those in need.  The presentors of the main topic of the synod were Bishop Davyd (Motiuk) and Pavlo (Khomytskyj), Rev. Dr. Andriy Onuferko and Dr. Volodymyr Sheremeta, who examined their Biblical-theological, liturgico-patristic, pastoral and ecological aspects.

After the plenary meeting, the synodal fathers worked in groups, and in the plenary session eventually formulated projects of decisions as to the responsibilities for God's gifts.  In particular, in the process of the discussion, it was noted that UGCC faithful in settlements feel especially sharply the harmful influence of secularization and globalization.  And the Church in Ukraine, having undergone  in the 20th century cruel persecutions from  the aetheistic regime, has the need to more effectively manage God's gifts as a significant method of evangelization on the personal, family, parochial and eparchial levels.

The Synod fathers also discussed a series of proposals on implementing the strategy “A living parish – the place of meeting the living Christ”, namely: development of theology in UGCC, the writing of a Catechism for Youth,  applying the old practice of Catechism, the drafting of pastoral programs of spiritual care over families, the improvement of education and service  of priests.  The Synod accorded special attention to those leading monastic lives.

Members of the Holy Synod emphasized that in the circumstances of the 21st century the first task of UGCC in Ukraine and in settlements becomes the nurturing of the treasure of Christian faith and the responsibility for God's gifts, the preaching of the Gospel in manners appropriate to the time and circumstances, as well as the protection of the giift of faith from the threats of secularization and indifference  which are spreading in the contemporary world.  The source of evangelization in UGC has to be a deep spiritual and liturgical life of its memebrs.  A special role in this the bishops are delegating to people who are called upon to be directly involved in it, that is,  the clergy, monastic orders, and  laity, who are properly prepared and mature in their spiritual life.

Other topics

In addition to the main topic of the Synod, the Synod fathers considered specific issues of canonical and administrative character.  Thus, examined were: a project of a new editing of the canons of UGCC Particular Rights, Status of the Visitator (delegate) on territories where no hierarchical structures of  UGCC exist, A spiritual-pastoral guidebook for priests, a Guidebook for  the Permanent Synod, etc.  The bishops heard the reports of the activities of the Patiarchal Curia, the commissions and departments of the Partriarchal level, the task force of implementing the strategies of the development of UGCC “A living parish – the place of meeting the living Christ”, the Management of Justice as well as the reports of synodal commissions and individual commitees (this year a more extended report was presented by the Theology Commitee, Commitee on Marriag and Family, and the Commitee on Monasticism).  On the basis of the received reports, the Holy Synod made some decisions  on improving the activities of the Church in various areas of administrative, academic, pastoral, and social services.

The work of the bishops was accompanied by individual and liturgical prayers.  On the Day of Spiritual Contemplation  which was led on September 11, Year of the Lord 2014, by Rev.Dr. Andriy Onuferko, the Church hierarchs contemplated the management and responsibilities for God's gifts in prayers and asked the blessings of the Holy Spirit that in their decisions thay do God's will.  Every day the bishops celebrated the Divine Liturgy during which bishops chosen beforehand delivered the sermons. 

This year's meeting of the Synod took place on the background of great trials which the Ukrainian people and the nation are experiencing  in this phase of its historical formation.  Therefore the bishops  thought  about how the Church is to fulfill its mission in new circumstances.  On Thursday, September 11th, members of the Synod established a  Heavenly Hundred  Memorial Square near the Lviv Holy Spirit  Spiritual Seminary.  Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi participated in this effort.  The bishops had the opportunity to  talk with the families of the perished and they expressed  to them their support  through  prayers  and spiritual closeness.   On Friday, September 12th, the participants of the Synod together with UGCC Head, visited the soldiers wounded in the ATO area, who are being treated in the Lviv Military Hospital.  The bishops gave the soldiers and volunteers souveniers – prayerbooks  “Let us come and genuflect” signed by the Synod participants.  UGCC Synod of Bishops sent a greeting to His Holiness Pope Francis.  The Synod  letters were also sent to the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minioster of Ukraine, Arseniy  Yatseniuk, Head of Parliament of Ukraine, Oleksandr  Turchynov, Prelates of Orthodox Churches in Ukraine, Prelates of Eastern Catholic Churches, individual Catholic Bishops Conferences and charitable organizations.  The Synod Fathers wrote to UGCC faithful  an appeal about the relevant socio-political situation in Ukraine on the eve of Parliamentary elections.  In addition, they wrote a letter of solidarity to the Cathplic Patriarchs of the Near East countries in which armed conflict and battles are going on  and expressed their assurance of prayers and spiritual closeness.

At their sessions, the Synod participants examined the readiness of the Church for the  6th Session of the Patrarchal Synod, focusing on the pastoral strategy of the whole Church “A living parish – the place  for meeting the living Christ”, which will take place next year in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk.  The program of the Synod  and its Statute were approved  and practical issues related to its preparation and realization were addressed. 

The Synod considered the proposals of the Organization Commitee of the Year of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky as to various events.  The bishops also deliberated about the  celebrations of jubilees in the year 2015, namely: Thousandth Anniversary of the Death of St. Volodymyr the Great and the Martyr-Death of Saints Borys and Khlib as well as the 200th anniversary of the birth of Rev. Mykhaylo Verbytskyj, the composer of the music for Ukraine's National Anthem.  

The next UGCC Synod of Bishops will take place during  August 30 – September 6, Year of the Lord 2015 in Ivano-Frankivsk.

 

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