Ukrainian Patriarch Visits Austria

Source: FSSPX News

His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), began a pastoral trip to Austria on November 7, 2019.

An Important Anniversary

One of the main purposes of Patriarch Sviatoslav’s trip to Austria was to commemorate the 120th Anniversary of Ukrainian Catholic students and a Ukrainian community being present in Innsbruck, located in the federal state of Tyrol. The University of Innsbruck (Universitas Leopoldino Franciscea) traces its roots back to the grammar school established by St. Peter Canisius in 1562. Re-founded as a university in 1669 by Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I and again in 1826 by Austrian Emperor Franz I, the university helped form some of the brightest minds in the UGCC starting in the early 20th Century.

Among Innsbruck’s Greco-Catholic students was a young Josyf Slipyj, who would eventually become head of the UGCC in 1944. Persecuted by the Soviet state and the communist-controlled Russian Orthodox Church, Slipyj spent two decades in confinement for refusing to renounce the Catholic Faith. He is best remembered for his heroic witness against persecution and, following his release from captivity, for leading the remnants of the Ukrainian Church after it had been ostensibly dissolved by the Russian Orthodox at the 1946 pseudo-Synod of Lviv. However, Slipyj also made important contributions to building bridges between Eastern and Western theology and answering Eastern Orthodox objections to Catholicism. He was able to accomplish this lofty goal due in no small part to his studies at Innsbruck.

Building Bridges and Preaching the Faith

During his visit to Innsbruck, Sviatoslav praised the University for helping to build bridges between East and West while acknowledging the historic role the Jesuits and Redemptorists played in educating Greco-Catholic clergy.

During the celebration of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral of St. James, the Ukrainian Patriarch acknowledged the new challenges to the Faith found throughout the European university system. Indeed, Sviatoslav called attention to the unfortunate reality that even in ostensibly Catholic universities, Catholics are forced to justify their beliefs. Even so, he offered the consoling words that, “[T]oday, Christ says to us, ‘Do not be afraid and do not worry, for I will give you a word that no one in the world will be able to resist.’” He then went on to say:

The post-truth world is lost in ideas and words which are changing their meaning. The world wants to see [those] who live according to what they believe in. If the world today sees us, Christians, as sheep among wolves and not as wolves among wolves, it will believe in God. Today, the world needs to see true Christians as good parents, good educators, teachers and professors, real people who, through their humanity, testify to the greatness and holiness of their Creator and Savior. Let us turn every persecution against the Church, every denouncing of the Christian faith into an opportunity to testify about the Truth.