By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, August 19, 2013

Into the Light

Cathedral  (Sobor) of the Resurrection of Christ
Radiant joy. Those are the words that I believe best capture what I saw expressed on the faces of nearly twenty thousand pilgrims yesterday in Kiev, Ukraine. I am here for the celebration by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of the people of Kyivan- Rus'. Central to the celebrations was the consecration yesterday of their new cathedral (or "sobor") by the Major Archbishop, His Beatitude Sviatoslaw. He was joined by all the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishops from around the world, together with representatives of other Eastern Rite Churches. Mine was the extraordinary privilege to be present to represent all the Bishops of Canada, who hold their Ukrainian brothers and their faithful in high esteem, and to symbolize our solidarity with them in this very historic moment of great joy. Cardinal Dolan of New York was also present in his capacity as President of the US Bishops' Conference for the same reason. The Holy Father sent as his personal emissary Cardinal Audrys Backis, the Archbishop Emeritus of Vilnius, Lithuania.

Consider that it is only slightly more than twenty years since this Church has been liberated from State oppression under the old communist regime. Prior to that they worshipped "in the catacombs", that is, secretly, such as in houses. Now in just a short span of time they are consecrating a new spiritual home, a magnificent cathedral which features prominently on the skyline of Kiev, an impressive city of over three million people. This structure announces not only the beauty of their faith tradition but also the decisive and positive contribution they stand poised to make to the common good of the people.

In point of fact, in my view that contribution predates these joy-filled days through the heroic witness given by these Christians throughout years of persecution and suffering. In spite of oppression, they remained steadfast and resilient in their faith. These brothers and sisters of ours in the Lord teach us that resistance and oppression is no excuse for infidelity to Christ and his Church. I made this point when I had the blessing of addressing, on behalf of the Bishops of Canada, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishops gathered here for their synod. As the people here now have the joy of stepping out fully into the light, their experience manifests the Gospel truths that light triumphs over darkness, truth over falsehood, good over evil, weakness over strength. How appropriate that they have named their new Sobor the Cathedral of the Resurrection!

Let us pray for our Ukrainian Greek Catholic brothers and sisters. They have a great deal of work ahead of them as they rebuild their Church. More importantly, may we learn from their example. The Church in Canada knows a different type of intolerance and resistance. By God's grace, may we not fail in our circumstances to be faithful witnesses to our Lord.