the Vatican released a letter sent by Pope Benedict XVI to Cardinal
Lubomyr Husar, major Archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians, recalling
the forced fusion of Catholics into the Orthodox Church by the
communist Soviet government in 1946.
The Pope’s message served to mark what he called "the sad events to which the cathedral of St. George at Leopoli was witness, in March of sixty years ago."
In the letter, which was dated February 22nd, the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Holy Father recalled the infamous March 1946 date, during which "a group of prelates meeting in a pseudo-synod which took upon itself the right to represent the Church, made a serious attack against ecclesial unity.”
“Violence against those who remained faithful to the Bishop of Rome intensified,” he wrote, “giving rise to further suffering and forcing the Church to descend once again to the catacombs."
Despite this, the Pope expressed his thanks to God that "the Greek-Catholic Church did not disappear but continued to bear her own witness to the unity, sanctity catholicity and apostolicity of the Church of Christ."
The pontiff expressed hope that the anniversary would stimulate the Greek-Catholic community in Ukraine "to strengthen its intimate and committed bond with Peter's Successor."
He likewise emphasized how, "in the patient daily journey of faith, in communion with the successors of the Apostles, ... the Ukrainian Catholic community has managed to uphold Sacred Tradition in its integrity."
"In order”, the Pope went on, “for this precious heritage of 'Paradosis' (or Tradition) to survive in all its richness, it is important to guarantee the presence of the two great currents of the one Tradition - the Latin current and the Orthodox current.”
Each, he said, contains “the multiplicity of historical characteristics that the Ukraine has been able to express."
Benedict closed the letter by calling to mind what he called "the dual mission entrusted to the Greek-Catholic Church in full communion with Peter.”
“On the one hand,” he wrote, “her task is to ensure the oriental tradition remains visible in the Catholic Church, on the other, to favor the encounter of the traditions, bearing witness not only to their compatibility, but also to their profound unity in diversity."