Rector of Lviv´s Theological Academy, on Papal Visit

"Pope Wojtyla Has Always Sustained Us"

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LVIV, Ukraine, JUNE 28, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Father Boris Gudziak is bullish on the impact of John Paul II´s five-day visit to Ukraine.



"The whole world has realized it now: There is great ´feeling´ between the Pope and our Church," said the rector of the Theological Academy of Lviv, who likes to express himself in English.

The academy is the darling of the lively Greek-Catholic community. And Father Gudziak is a typical example of the new generation of believers.

The son of immigrants in Canada, he studied in Rome under Cardinal Josif Slipyi. He returned to Ukraine after 1990, and worked for the Church as a layman, eventually being ordained to the priesthood.

--Q: What impressed you about this trip?

--Father Gudziak: The [Pope´s] great capacity to establish genuine and profound contact with our people, at all levels: with intellectuals; representatives of the different religious confessions in Kiev´s Philharmonic Palace; youth, here, in Lviv.

He has known how to touch the most sensitive chords of the Ukrainian soul, linking past history with future tasks. I have not seen such euphoria in our country since 1991, since the time of the regaining of independence.

--Q: The Pope expressed admiration for the Ukrainian Church. Are you proud of this recognition?

--Father Gudziak: Pope Wojtyla has always sustained us, even when in the Western Church there was ignorance and indifference in regard to us. Our community has enthusiastically responded to him.

We can say that among the Greek-Catholics, one out of every four faithful attended the solemn celebration presided over by the Pope, half a million youths prayed and sang with him, without counting the great multitude that have greeted him along the way. I would say that there is a great "feeling" between us and John Paul II, a great harmony, and now all realize this.

--Q: This visit has taken place under the sign of forgiveness. Yesterday, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar asked for forgiveness: for the evil done to their neighbors by certain sons and daughters of the Greek-Catholics Church with respect to the Orthodox.

--Father Gudziak: We have already said on several occasions that our faithful did not always act in an exemplary way. However, I would like to point out that, at the beginning of the ´90s, when spirits were on fire and contrasts were very marked, there wasn´t even one victim.

Hundreds of buildings of worship have been returned to their rightful owners, 600 Orthodox priests have gone over to the Catholic Church and this, after 50 years of harsh repression; yet, with but a few exceptions, everything has happened without violence.

If you think of the wars between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, not to mention what is happening between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East, you will admit that among us everything, or almost everything, has developed very properly.

--Q: Following this visit, will dialogue with the Orthodox finally begin?

--Father Gudziak: The dialogue already exists. Moreover, in some cases, there is cooperation, for example, in the field of formation. There are Orthodox professors together with Catholic ones in the Theological Academy, a practical example of ecumenism that, thanks be to God, is not reduced to the stroking of bears among ecclesiastics.

There is no dialogue where rhetoric triumphs that is typical of some leaders of the Orthodox hierarchy. However, dialogue already exists among the people. Thousands of Orthodox faithful have participated in the Pope´s ceremonies spontaneously. In my opinion, the visit has made a very promising reality flower.