Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Working on New Beatification Processes

8 July 2013, 17:50 | Kaleidoscope | view photo | 1 |   | Code for Blog |  | 

Kateryna Labinska

On June 27 the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) honored the blessed martyrs who gave their lives for the faith and the church in the twentieth century. This day in the church calendar has been celebrated for 12 years, ever since John Paul II beatified 27 martyrs during his visit to Lviv. The most famous of them are Bishop Mykola Charnetsky (for many years hundreds of pilgrims would gather at his grave at the Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv, before his reburial in the Church of St. Josaphat); Father Mykola Konrad of Stradch (to where there are traditional pilgrimages); Righteous Among the Nations Father Omelian Kovch, who died in a German concentration camp for having saved Jews and became known as the “Pastor of Majdanek.” Liturgical prayers have been composed and icons have been painted for them...

‘Saints Are Signposts in Our Lives’

Basilian Hieromonk Polikarp (Martseliuk) heads the Postulation Center for the Beatification and Canonization of Saints of the UGCC, a church institution that collects information and documents the lives of those whom the church wants the faithful to emulate by declaring them saints. He explains why there is such an institution: “The process of declaration of saints is the perpetuation of the memory of the heroes, the faithful and priests who have left their mark on the life of the church. Therefore, the requirements for candidates for beatification include the following: a person who belonged to the church and who has passed away; the memory of his or her virtues or martyrdom lives among the faithful; the grave of this person gathers many visitors, and his or her name, especially on the day of his or her death, is on the lips of the faithful and appears in newspapers or online forums.”

According to Father Polikarp, if society forgets a worthy person, it shows its level – it is unlikely it will continue to evolve and have great prospects for the future. “The 2nd-century Church Father Tertullian said: ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.’ They nurtured in our church what we have now – people in churches, people conscious of their vocations. And now so that the people have positive models and so that temptation does not penetrate to the depths of the heart, so that indifference doesn’t grow, the church offers examples of saints for their faithful to follow,” says Father Polikarp. “Saints are the signposts in our lives. On the road, signs warn of danger, help us find the right direction. Thus the church shows the correct path and possible obstacles on it.”

The head of the postulation center draws attention to the example of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. “He suffered for his desire for Christian unity, always lived in danger, Russians arrested him on charges of ‘Mazepynstvo’ [derogatory term for the Ukrainians’ liberation movement in the Russian Empire], the Polish government isolated him during the war in the wards of St. George’s Cathedral, and among Ukrainians were those who accused him of sympathizing with Orthodoxy. When Metropolitan Andrey was in exile in Russia, he was taken in by a Russian bishop and later in Lviv the metropolitan took him in when he became a fugitive. Metropolitan Andrey defended the Ukrainians’ right to their own state, but also called for cooperation between nations in the newly created Second Polish Republic. Metropolitan Andrey was a peacekeeper, who in time of war was a model of how to remain human under any circumstances. The metropolitan’s pupils continued his work, as martyrs they were killed for their faith in exile. Many priests who were his pupils did not flee abroad, did not leave their flocks.”

Father Polikarp gave examples of priests who followed the guidance of their metropolitan, in particular, Father Josef Ostashevsky, who in the village Pidberiztsi near Lviv at the time of the German occupation looked after patients with typhoid fever. His name is on the list of Servants of God that will be reviewed in Rome as candidates of martyrs.

Immediately after John Paul II’s visit to Ukraine, the Postulation Mission continued the processes of new martyrs of the UGCC – some were not ready in time for the visit of Pope John Paul II, and other names emerged later. All in all, there are 45 names on the list, with the pastor of Stebnyk Father Petro Mekelyta at the top. Most of them are priests who were killed by the Communist regime in World War II. But the list also includes a lay woman, 27-year-old Mariya Shveda who was brutally murdered in the 1980s. And the youngest “member” of the beatification process is a 25-year-old Redemptorist monk Marian Halan. While in the Soviet army, he was accused of spreading religious propaganda.

How does the Postulation Mission work? Father Roman Lahish, vice postulator in the case of Father R. Bakhtalovsky, explains it as follows: “This organization is called on by the church to collect all existing material on the person who is postulated (from Lat. recommended) to be a saint and therefore with all the necessary criteria can be presented before the Catholic Church. Postulation work also includes searching for and gathering eyewitness accounts of the lives of the candidates for beatification or canonization.

“We must celebrate heroic virtue, that is, how in a particular time and under specific circumstances, a person bore witness to the faith. After all, in different times there are different expressions of holiness. For example, at one time the clergy helped cities to overcome the plague and consequently become saints. In the twentieth century, during the totalitarian regimes, they bore witness to the faith in other ways – for example, hid Jewish children, as Metropolitan Andrey did in the cellars of St. George’s Hill. Or they died in Siberia because they do not renounce their church. All saints are very different, as God builds sanctity on a human foundation. There are those who had an excellent education as well as very simple parish priests who were committed to tradition and who did not make any compromises.”

According to canon law, the fastest beatification process can begin within 5 years after the death of the person: it is believed that if the person’s life was full of Christian virtues, he will remain popular among believers during that time. Thus a temporal break is needed so that the process is not started in the wake of some emotional excitement.

The Canonization Process of Blessed Charnetsky

The Catholic Church distinguishes the concepts of beatification and canonization. If a person is canonized, that is, declared a saint, it is mandatory that he is commemorated by the Universal Church; when a person is beatified (declared blessed), it is limited to the local church or even to a city or monastic community. As such, 27 martyrs have been declared blessed in the UGCC, but it is likely that some of them will be canonized in the future, at least in the case of the most beloved by Ukrainian believers Blessed Mykola Charnetsky, who is known for his healing power.

For the beatification process to be completed, it must be proven that a miracle has taken place by his or her intercession. However, in the case of martyrdom, a miracle is not required. It is believed giving one’s life as a witness for the faith is sufficient for confirming the sanctity of the person. But to be canonized, a miracle is necessary.

Researching the fates of these people is daily routine work. Employees of the Postulation Center must submit to the Vatican a collection of documents and eyewitness accounts that confirm the practice of virtues or martyrdom glory. It is necessary to study archival materials, compare it to testimonies, write a detailed biography, and translate key documents and testimonies into Italian. This is the first part of the process that takes place in the eparchy where the Servant of God lived and worked. During the second, so-called Roman part, historians and theologians determine whether this person exhibited Christian virtues and that his or her life was given as a witness for the faith of the Catholic Church. Developing one case can take several months. Sometimes there is a lack of testimonies, and sometimes contradictory facts are founds. Eyewitnesses tend to be older and they are hard to find and to talk to, as they may be intimidated. And sometimes there are no living eyewitnesses, and then the case is based on archival documents.

Other Beatification Processes in the UGCC

In addition to the beatification processes for new martyrs, the UGCC is working on a few individual beatification processes relating to:

— Father Roman Bakhtalovsky – the founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Fatima, who died in 1985; his case is being carried out by confirming his heroic virtue;

— Basilian Father Jeremiah Lomnytsky – honored church leader, co-founder of the Order of the Sisters Servants, well known in his time among Russian Greek Catholics; died in 1916 in exile;

— Father Kyryl Seletsky – co-founder of the Congregation of Sisters Servants and co-founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph the Betrothed, successor of Don Bosco in implementing non-authoritarian education (died in 1918).

Also, it seems that finally the decades-long beatification process of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky is coming to an end. The case is being reviewed in Rome. There have been numerous statements about his healing power. Recently in Stradch the head of the UGCC Patriarch Sviatoslav expressed hope that by Metropolitan Andrey’s anniversary in 2015 his beatification process will be complete. Furthermore, the process of beatification of Cardinal Josyf Slipyj has been started.

Other Interesting Facts

Sometimes the beatification or canonization processes last for decades or even a century. Sometimes the Servant of God (such as Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky) left a large academic or theological heritage that must be carefully investigated to ascertain that there is no disagreement with the teaching of the Catholic Church. For example, Bishop Josaphat Kuntsevych, martyred in 1623 and beatified in 20 years, was proclaimed a saint two centuries later. And the Catholic Church canonized Renaissance humanist Thomas More over four hundred years after his execution, recognizing him as the patron saint of politicians and lawyers.

There are children saints in the Catholic Church as well, in particular, Dominic Savio, who lived a holy life and was recognized as an assistant for pregnant women, and martyr Maria Goretti, who at the age of 12 was the victim of brutal rape. Before her death, she forgave her abuser, who later repented and after 30 years in prison became a monk. St. Maria Goretti is the patroness of victims of rape and modern youth.

In the second millennium, the five year waiting period for the start of the beatification process was waived for Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II. They had the fastest beatification processes.

One of the most dramatic and interesting beatification processes concerned Padre Pio, a Capuchin Catholic priest, who bore the stigmata, which caused admiration in some, and distrust and outright ridicule in others. The sanctity of Padre Pio is still being reconfirmed – many miracles have been performed through the saint’s intercession.

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  • sana210870 | 9 July 2013, 08:44
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    дуже часто молюся до Андрея Шептицького про заступництво. І впевнена що мої молитви вислухані. відчуваю підтримку і поміч митрополита.

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  • Slava43 | 12 August 2020, 15:35

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  • bopa | 8 June 2020, 11:43

    То перераховані факти ви називаєте "фантазиями и ночными кошмарами"? Чому викладену інформацію ви "Очередная статья нижайшего интеллектуального уровня"? У вас

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