Major archbishop calls predecessor a hero during Nazi Holocaust
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
The primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, described his predecessor Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky as a model of sacrificial love that every generation needs to discover.
Archbishop Shevchuk visited Canada Apr. 24-26 as part of a delegation of religious leaders representing all the major religious faiths in Ukraine. He spoke at a Symposium Apr. 25 at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies honoring Metropolitan Sheptytsky’s legacy during World War II on the theme “Ethical Action in Extreme Conditions.”
“The courage that Metropolitan Sheptytsky displayed during a very dark night of Ukraine’s history has universal significance,” said Archbishop Shevchuk. “At the risk of his own life, as well as the lives of his clergy and nuns, Metropolitan Sheptytsky sheltered hundreds of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.”
“He did so, knowing full well that from the perspective of human calculation this was sheer folly,” he said. “But he also knew that without such ‘folly’ life is absurd.”
“That kind of ‘folly’ is as important today as then. For the true good of humanity, every generation must be willing to go beyond human calculation and embrace sacrificial love---a love that respects all life—from conception to natural death,” he said.
Archbishop Shevchuk quoted Metropolitan Sheptytsky who wrote: “A lack of love is the source of every hard ship and misery. Every person has a right to be loved, has a right to experience love from all people. And an injustice is inflicted on a person when they experience too little of it.”
Those words might seem pietistic from someone else, Achbishop Shevchuk said, but Jewish scholar Eric Goldhagen said of Metropolitan Sheptytsky “No other ecclesial figure of equal rank in the whole of Europe displayed such sorrow for the fate of the Jews and acted so boldly on their behalf.”
Metropolitan Sheptytksty’s insistence on the rights to love and compassion would be a “real rights revolution,” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “It is truly revolutionary because it requires us to overturn everything we normally associate with ‘rights.’”
“One cannot legislate compassion,” he said. “One cannot enforce ‘entitlements’ to love.”
He noted that his predeccesor always remained God-centered and it is only through inner communion with the living God that one can find the compassion for others. A spiritual diary revealed Metropolitan Sheptytsky spent eight hours a day in prayer, rising at 3 a.m., he said.
He rejected the common notion religion and “talk of God leads to division and strife.”
“Certainly, it is only the living God, not an idol, who heals and brings peace,” he said.
As a former professor of moral theology and a former student at the Sheptytsky Institute’s summer program, the Ukrainian Catholic major archbishop warned against “moral escapism” by focusing on the wrongs of the past. Indignation about past wrongs “does not always translate into ethical behavior today.”
The trip organized by the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter brought about 20 religious leaders---Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, Adventist, Jewish and Muslim and scholars to Canada and the United States.
After leaving Canada on Apr. 26, the delegation flew to Washington, D.C. then on to New York City.