Does the end justify the means? Blessed bishop Hryhorii Khomyshyn about Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky’s proceedings

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 Does the end justify the means? Blessed bishop Hryhorii Khomyshyn about Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky’s proceedings

Bishop Khomyshyn’s book–testament Two Kingdoms, the last part of which miraculously survived, and which is being given to the Polish Reader, was written as the author’s reaction to Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky’s proceedings in the religious and national fields. Two visions of the Church and two logical as well as ethical systems, differing in their treatment of the union and mission of the Greek Catholic Church, clash here.


 Archbishop Sheptytsky was regarded as the undisputed religious and national leader of Ruthenians in Galicia and later Ukrainians in Eastern Lesser Poland. High expectations were held about the metropolitan who assumed St. George’s Cathedral in 1901. It was expected that the young and energetic hierarch, the Basilian-monk, the heir of the tradition of the Sheptytsky family extremely meritorious to the Uniate Church in the past, would perform great deeds to reconstruct it and to haul it out of the influence of the Orthodox Church. Bishop Khomyshyn himself, who took over the Episcopal capital in Stanyslaviv, did not hide his fascination with the figure of the metropolitan. He wrote that he openly admired him. Gradually, however, the two hierarchies’ visions of the mission and future of the Greek Catholic Church started to diverge. While for Bishop Khomyshyn it was a church faithful to the centuries-old Uniate tradition, being the original legacy of the development of Christian worship at the crossroads of the influence of the East and West, for archbishop Sheptytsky the Uniate Church was to be as close as possible to the Orthodox tradition, emphasise its oriental roots in order to convert Russia in the future. Probably this idea particularly fascinated the bishop after the meeting with Pope Pius X on 18 February 1908 during which he was bestowed the privileges of former Kiev metropolitans, whose jurisdiction encompassed vast territories of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, that is all Rus. Metropolitan Sheptytsky treated these powers of attorney with great reverence and a sense of colossal mission to be accomplished. In a letter to his brother Kazimierz he wrote that he received from the Holy Father “more than our Orthodox Church got from the Union of Brest”.


After some time this idea became so uppermost in the metropolitan’s mind that all his actions were subordinated to this goal. Being a spiritual and political leader of Ukrainians, the metropolitan saw Russia as a great challenge and mission. This split also surprised his confreres in the bishopric, Catholics of other rites. Armenian Archbishop Józef Teodorowicz said that Sheptytsky “sits on two stools [...] joins ukrainians (sic!) and butters Russia up”. Strongly politically active, the metropolitan of Lviv was ready to come to the most unexpected compromises, sometimes surprising and inexplicable in terms of basic honesty. During the First World War Archbishop Sheptytsky prepared a project to transform Ukraine, in the event of its occupation by the army of the central states, into a separate state under the patronage of the Habsburgs whose Orthodox church would recognise the authority of Rome. As the events unfolded otherwise and the Russian troops occupied Galicia and Lviv, the bishop recognised Russian tsar’s as his sovereign, expressing his humble loyalty. He wrote to the tsar in his letter: “YOUR MAJESTY, the Victorious Army of Your Majesty took a great part of Lviv and Galicia Ruthenian principality. Three-million Ruthenian population of Galicia welcomes Ruthenian soldiers as brothers. The humbly signed shepherd of these people, the Orthodox Catholic metropolitan of Galicia and Lviv has been ready for years and wants to sacrifice his life for the prosperity and salvation of Saint Ruthenia and YOUR MAJESTY, and submits to the feet of YOUR MAJESTY his warmest greetings and joyful congratulations on the end of the uniting of the remaining part of the Ruthenian Land”. The Metropolitan addressed the tsar: “in the solemn moment of the victory of the Russian army, I humbly repeat my supplicant previous request: deign YOUR MAJESTY to entrust all holy Rus and its newly acquired parts to the Divine Heart of Christ the Saviour”. He also remarked that he wrote the letter not expecting any benefits for himself – at that time he was arrested and went on exile to Russia – but caring about Holy Rus and Galicia-Ruthenian people whose protection “Providence handed to the Tsar”. He signed it as “Andrey Sheptytsky, the Metropolitan of Galicia and Lviv, most humbly praying for YOUR MAJESTY”. This servile letter appeared several weeks after the shepherd of Lviv addressed Ruthenians – subjects of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and also Ukrainians – Russian subjects with a message to “consistently and strongly opt for Austria against the Russian Empire – the worst enemy of Ukraine. The victory of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy will be our victory, and the lower Russia will fall, the sooner the time of freedom of Ukraine will come. [...] Let the sun of free Ukraine shine on the ruins of the tsar's empire”.


The Lviv bishop’s great end justified the means. This was confirmed later by other instances of historical turmoil which he did not fail to use to accomplish his mission in which he believed. The metropolitan believed that changing political circumstances could be used to achieve the desired goal – the conversion of Russia. Unfortunately, the elderly hierarch did not hesitate to welcome with gratitude the German Nazi army marching to conquer the Soviet Union – as a historical tool for the realisation of the mission entrusted to him. In a pastoral letter he ordered the solemn celebration in Orthodox churches and singing of thanksgiving Te Deum. The occupation of Kiev by the Nazis was an opportunity to send a telegram to “His Excellency the Fuehrer of the Great German Empire, Adolf Hitler” in which “as head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, he sent his warmest congratulations as regards the occupation of the capital of the Ukraine, the golden domed city of Dnieper – Kiev”. He assured that the Fuehrer of the Great German Reich had won the gratitude of all the Christian world for annihilating Bolshevism. In the name of the Ukrainian nation he declared: ”Since the fate of our nation has been entrusted by God to your hands from now on, we are expecting, as a friend of Germany in this struggle, which is also waged for the development of our nation, the possibility of exercising religious and national freedom”.


After three years, on 10 October 1944 after the incursion of the Soviet troops, the dying metropolitan turned to Generalissimo Joseph Stalin with a congratulatory letter and thanked “the great Marshal of the invincible Red Army” for the victorious march from the Volga to the San and further for “the reunification of western Ukrainian lands with Great Ukraine”. Then archbishop Sheptytsky thanked Stalin for “the fulfilment of the eternal dreams and aspirations of Ukrainians who for centuries had considered themselves one nation and wanted to be joined in one state”. The prince of the church assured the tyrant about great love of the nation and the Orthodox Church for him. He wrote: “this love makes us first of all wish you success and all prosperity, paying due homage according to the words of Christ: ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’”.


The metropolitan’s actions, difficult to understand in the area of “political contacts”, were reflected in the condition of the Greek Catholic Church and the life of Ukrainians in Eastern Lesser Poland. The vision of the conversion of Russia caused quite concrete steps towards the approximation of the Uniate rite with the Orthodox one. It is worth noting that during the Second World War the so-called ritual reform in the Greek Catholic Church was undertaken aimed at exploiting the opportunity created by the German occupation in order to introduce Catholicism in the “Orthodox” disguise to the East. It is difficult to say whether there was more naivety or lack of prudence in it.


Such experiments in the difficult moment of life of the Church and of the nation aroused strong disapproval of the Bishop of Stanyslaviv. The dangerous trends came from the headquarters of the Metropolitan of Lviv, which made any discussion on issues of identity of the Union quite delicate. In addition, both bishops represented the nation living in the Polish state and the Church traditionally played the role of national elites. Any discrepancy revealed in the public space could be perceived as a disruption of solidarity in the environment of Ukrainians.


The disapproval of the activity of the Metropolitan found its accumulation in the Bishop of Stanyslaviv in the form of thoughts contained in the work Two Kingdoms. The book given to the Polish reader is, as the author writes, the fifth part of the unknown work on the Greek Catholic Church, undoubtedly lost in the vortex of the Second World War. At the end of the manuscript the bishop placed such a remark: “I intended to finish my work about Two Kingdoms, written before the Second World War, with the Fourth Part. When, however, during the Second World War a harmful and dangerous ritual reform was imposed on us, I felt obliged to write the Fifth Part about Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, whose activity I considered to be an activity under the influence of the world, even without his awareness, as well as proof that one can be influenced by the world and at the same time believe that he serves God. I became also convinced that the activity of the Metropolitan would ultimately if not lead to the ruin of our Orthodox Church, it would at least cause chaos, confusion and disorientation so I could not remain silent and dared to analyse the activity of the Metropolitan in order to indicate the source and circumstances in which the ritual reform was born so that people of good will could know, so that they did not walk in the dark and took a conscious and clear position. At the same time I would like to remark that I am not infallible. I might have made a mistake in my writing in the presentation of some people, of the Order, of the circumstances and particular facts, and therefore I already repeal if I have made a mistake. Also, I do not want to impose my judgment on anyone: let anyone who is reading it make his own judgment” (p. 507).


On the basis of his own experience and observation of Archbishop Sheptytsky’s proceedings, Bishop Khomyshyn carries out an in-depth analysis of the hierarch’s personality, as well as of the motivation that caused such great determination in the pursuit of the goal. Bishop Khomyshyn draws attention to the gap between the metropolitan and the Galician Uniate society. He pointed out that, as a Polish aristocrat, Aleksander Fredro's grandson, immersed in the spirit of alienation from the people since his early years, he was more eager to accede to euphemistic global ideas than to the real needs of the faithful or to the concrete, mostly peasant society. The hierarch-aristocrat perceived the society rather in terms of the Russian option – recognising the integrity of all Ruthenian peoples as the only national community. And being a “Ruthenian metropolitan” he was convinced that his mission was the conversion of “all Rus”. Therefore, he adopted as his religious name the name of apostle Andrew, who, according to the old legend, brought the light of faith to the hills of Kiev. As a spiritual shepherd and leader of the nation which in its majority identified itself as Ukrainian, separate from Russians, pursuing its political goals, he had to keep a hidden dream in his heart – to connect the whole of Russia with the Holy See. Bishop Khomyshyn writes that is his views he was a Russophile because “his goal was to convert Russia by the approximation or even the equalisation of our Greek-Catholic rite with the synodal-Russian one, and this was synonymous with being a Russophile which was considered odious. And that is why the Metropolitan played a role of more than 100% Ukrainian to hide his Russophilia, and gain lasting confidence among the Ukrainian community, among lay patriots and the clergy, so that they blindly accepted what he did and introduce (p. 241)”.


And this complex led to another negligence, of which the Bishop of Stanyslaviv accused the metropolitan – downplaying of nationalism spreading among Ukrainians. He perceived this ideology as a huge moral distortion and a threat to the social condition, and thought that the metropolitan should have fiercely condemned this heresy. Bishop Khomyshyn could not accept the inaction of the metropolitan in such important national issues when nationalist distortions became more and more widespread among the Ukrainian population: “The Metropolitan neglected all of it, and therefore instead of dispassionate and prudent politics [among Ukrainians - W.O.], a course of terrorist actions of underground youth militias began, organised on their own by various unauthorized ‘leaders’. The Metropolitan not only failed to fulfil his duty, but also took a passive stand against terrorist militants, or rather indirectly favoured them, and in any case approved of them by remaining silent […] A reasonable father who loves his children not only cares for their good, but also when necessary, admonishes, rebukes and even punishes them. The proverb says: ‘Love the child like a soul and shake him like a pear’. The Metropolitan, who claimed to be the father of the nation, did not fulfil this duty. He silently turned a blind eye to all our failings, and even indirectly supported them. By this he grew into a great patriot, but he did more harm than an open enemy because he did not care for the good of the Ukrainian people, he was intent on his own greatness and not on the greatness of the Ukrainian people” (p. 71, 75). Archbishop Sheptytsky grew into a great a national authority among nationalist leaders. At the same time resolute and uncompromising Bishop Khomyshyn was considered a traitor, insensitive to national affairs and a backward cleric. Saint Józef Bilczewski, the archbishop and metropolitan of Lviv, observing this situation with concern, wrote in his letter: “The glorification of priest Sheptytsky has emboldened the clergy and scribblers who are hurling ultimate insults at him” [Bishop Khomyshyn – W.O.]. Unfortunately, the situation described by the saint has not passed into history but is extremely valid today.


Włodzimierz Osadczy



DATA: 2018-04-13 08:45
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