Patriarch Lubomyr: «A new situation is approaching and new strengths are needed»
Your Beatitude, in your opinion, what state is the UGCC in today?
Over the past twenty years, with God’s help, our Church has made serious steps towards its rebirth. Rebirth does not mean a return to the past. By the past I mean the first half of the twentieth century. The past had its circumstances, problems and challenges; it also had Metropolitan Sheptytskyi; it had very good theologians, who led Church life in those days. Then there was a period of persecution, which also had its own particularities. Then there was the time of deliverance and, in the present period, a process of a rebirth and renewal of the mission of the Church is taking place, at a level, where it [the Church] should be. And in this are two aspects: structural and spiritual.
When we talk about the structural aspect, we mean the renewal and expansion of the structures that are needed for the life of the Church. In the past, our diaspora around the world existed in very different circumstances from what we have today and it did not have a direct link with the motherland. After a period of the formation of Church structures in the diaspora, it is now time for all of these structures, all of these elements to merge. This happens so that they really could work well and serve the Church both in Ukraine and in the diaspora. A certain development took place and the level, reached by the Church, now requires more harmonious organization, more rigorous work and more vigilant common action in order to provide for all parts of our Church, not only their rights, but above all, service to the faithful, which is the foundation of Church life.
The second aspect is spiritual ministry. After the period of persecution, which in itself was appalling, yet, all the same, full of God’s graces, such as the testimonies of martyrdom and the total dedication to God on the part of many members of our Church, there came a time of rebirth. The clandestine life was a period of spiritual growth, and when the Church became free again, it must also cherish these spiritual values as well as preserve, understand and develop the courage to live on the basis of the past achievements, both of the past as well as the last ten years.
What then led you to leave the office of the Major Archbishop of Kyiv and Halych during such an important period for the UGCC?
We reached a certain point which is very important, because we, as a Church, commence to think, in all our manifestations, about our future, the future of the next decades. This requires great attention and strength to be able to act. Therefore, taking into consideration the development of the structures as well as the spiritual revival, we are entering a new period, which came to fruition and which requires a lot of hard work from people who have the strength and possibilities to develop further, because a new situation is approaching and new strengths are needed.
In other words, your decision to leave is a conscious and voluntary one?
There comes a certain point, brought about by the limitations of human nature. A man reaches a certain physical condition, when such large tasks require more strength and inspiration for further work. I’m glad that we came this far and I am grateful to God that we, thanks to the merit of our predecessors, bishops, priests and lay people, were able to reach this point. I think it would be quite wrong in any way to restrain or stop this process [of development – ed.]. On the contrary, today there is a need to pass the leadership to the next generations. And now, I feel, is the time for me, totally consciously and calmly, without any external factors or pressures, to step down and to hand over to other hands, the hands of the next leaders, the steering wheel of the entire Church.
What will you do now?
I will not occupy any positions, that’s for sure. Why would I? I am of the retirement age. But to the extent of my abilities, I’ll be occupied with something. I will not be associated with any official functions. I will do what I still am able to do. I will pray for the Church, I will reflect on the past, I will make sure that nothing from our Church’s past is lost. I would love to have meetings with youth as well as with different professional groups: journalists, artists and politicians. Now, I’ll have more time. A lot of people write memoirs; at the moment, I do not have particular ambitions to do so. However, I will participate in the life of the Church and the society as the people of the retirement age do, who in their own way continue to serve others.
Your Beatitude, according to your words, it seems that one of the criteria for choosing your successor is his younger age. What other criteria should be considered?
It is about the age, but not only. My peers are retirees. To hand down the office to someone of my age would not be serious. The structure of our Church is a synodal one and, therefore, it’s not about a person, gifted with extraordinary talents; we need to seek the leader of this community. The Major Archbishop – Father and Head of our Church – is the Head of the Synod.
In our tradition, especially our restored tradition, the Synod is the governing body that sets the tone [for Church life – ed.). I hope and I am sure that during our electoral Synod the bishops will seek a man, who will have this vision for the future and who will carry on the work, already begun, which he is familiar with, because through the Synod, we all take part in the life and leadership of our Church.
We must choose a person, who will best be able to strengthen, support, lead and continue those achievements, which have been made until now. So, here it is not about a single attribute, but about seeing a certain person as a whole.
What tasks, in your opinion, should the next Head of the UGCC be preoccupied with?
We need to continue, improve and open new opportunities before the UGCC, spiritual opportunities, so that it could even more be itself; so that it could serve all its faithful, wherever they are. So, having the Synod, having this internal unity of our Church, we need to seize the moment of a certain maturity in order to move on. We need to look on into the future, since we already have some experience, and reflect upon the vision of our Church, of our life in the coming decades. We need to employ this vision of the future very practically, not just in words, not just in pondering or planning. And it also requires the continuation of leadership, realized over the past 20 years, with new strengths. We need to support this commonality of our Church, to use those inner spiritual strengths, which God gave us, which have been awakening over the past 20 years, in order to walk on.
Interview by Rev. Ihor Yatsiv