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					       The Ukraine Delegation of Greek – Catholic Rite
           In the Circumscription East of Moscow
The Circumscription East with its center in Moscow exists with a rich mosaic or
kaleidoscope of countries, cultures, languages and rites. I will present now an unedited
but significant aspect of the area and then an informational one.

1. The significant aspect is the existence, within the Circumscription, of the Ukraine
Delegation tied to its rite and unique in our Congregation. This rite is the Byzantine-
Ukraine rite also called the Greek-Catholic or Uniate rite.

The Ukraine possesses a rich and varied patrimony of religious experience which in
written Hebrew history embraces an ark of a thousand years. Practically speaking, no
cultural, political or economic life can be understood without consideration of the
relevance of the Christian churches, of their doctrine, canons, liturgical practices,
community and personal spirituality, culture and customs. As you know, the Ukraine was
under the dominion of the Lithuanian Poles, then under the Austrians, and finally under
the Soviets.

We now direct our attention briefly to Western Ukraine, called Galizia, where we find the
Greek-Catholic rite, which has been cause of tribulation both on the part of the Orthodox
and of the Latins, who are still called traitors or illegitimates and are looked upon with
anger or irony. The most tragic period for the Greek-Catholic Church is the XX century
during Soviet domination. It was a period of terror, persecution, forced deportations, a
time of unbearable suffering and death. It was a period that witnessed a tentative
consciousness, premeditated, to destroy the nation’s culture and all religious sensibility.
The church and its union with Rome were suppressed. This began in 1596, from which
time the term “uniate”was eliminated, and the church became subjected to obedience to
the Patriarch of Moscow. The church then became an underground church, confined to
live in the catacombs. The personal story of every Ukranian was subjected to this
brutality and cruelty. These psychological and spiritual scars have never healed; this
explains the patriotic sense of the Ukraine people and their ruthless defense, at times even
fanatic, of the rite. This strong sensibility is found also among the Salesians.

And now to our own times. The interest of the Sacred Congregation of Extraordinary
Ecclesiastical Affairs, pushed by Pope Pius XI, goes back to 1930. The Congregation
asked the Salesians to assume the professional and religious formation of the youth of the
Greek-Catholic rite. It also wished them to begin preparing to form a religious province.
Beginning in 1932 the first group of 10 young Ukraines depart for Ivrea in Italy. Five of
them become Salesians. Then others depart: 4 in 1937; 6 in 1938,
and in 1939, 4 Salesians. A total then of 19 Salesians work in the Diaspora.

In 1991 the proclamation of independence and of religious liberty allows the Ukrainian
Salesians to return to their fatherland. In 1992, after an interruption of 60 years, the first
group of vocations after Communism departs for Italy. From that time, in 15 years about



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180 young people have begun a vocational journey and more than half of them entered
the novitiate in Italy, Russia Poland or Slovenia. 16 became Salesian priests, others went
to the diocese. 12 clerics, 4 novices and 6 prenovices are in formation.

Hopes are high, as we see in the numbers that depart. Also in the local clergy there were
big numbers who joined: in one seminary in 1992 there were more than 1000 seminarians
housed in every section of the city. Now the situation has changed. Monastic orders such
as the venerated Basilians who 10 years ago had 40 novices, this year have only 6, the
Redemptorists declined from 25 to 4.

Problems which must be confronted:
- if the youthful age of our confreres is a richness, this fact becomes a problem in the
matter of assignments and roles of animation and government.
- the referral to married priests of the diocese creates a problem: the rite allows them to
get married and 95% of the Catholic priests of the Greek Catholic rite are married; the
difficulty in this regard is augmented especially if the formative journey does not help
Ukrainian youth to open up, which for them is difficult. So they become victims of the
diffidence and of suspicion which was ever present in the environment of the former
regime. They do not exhibit confidence: in their families they were accustomed to
comport themselves in one way; in school, another way: “we by nature, culture, habit are
liars,” one of them said to me in trying to explain the different behaviors they had to
assume.
- the community is a reality with weak roots; Christian and religious life is like an
emotional, sentimental wave which must confront problems of vocational fidelity in the
face of the allurements of material prosperity, of relativism, and so forth.
- the formative journey in a foreign country, for now mainly in Italy, even if it continues
for a few years, is not always and for everyone able to instill Salesianity. For some it is
only a parenthesis, even if a beautiful one, but they eventually return to their old selves,
not being able to take ownership and assume the richness, the Salesian originality, almost
as if this excluded or was in opposition to their culture and the spirituality of their
fatherland.

Together with this situation, we find the hemorrhaging of vocations due to an initial
discernment that was not clear and which, therefore, lacked a solid base to begin a
vocational journey.

In spite of all this, namely, personnel problems, problems regarding structures, economy
and of a young delegation which is about to complete 3 years of existence, a rainbow of
hope prevails. The youthful terrain is in the hands of the Salesians, from East to West.
The Communist regime's educational institutions operated by the State and that mirrored
the total communist picture for the different ages of their youngsters, completely
disappeared.

Not being very insightful or having any educative credibility, schools even today are not
in a position to give help and support. The paucity of the salaries discourages teachers in




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their work, and they therefore seek employment outside the educational environment to
augment their funds.

Finally the church. The Orthodox and Greek-Catholic priests who are married do not earn
enough to support their families. Therefore, they engage in more lucrative activities along
with liturgical ones.

The result is that there is much work for the Salesians and the charism of Don Bosco
attracts a multitude of youth, distracting them from the dangers of the street, of laziness,
of alcohol, of drugs, etc.

2. The unedited news is the following. In addition to the retired Salesian bishop who is
nearly 90 years of age, Bishop Andrea Sapelak, we Ukrainians also have a clandestine
bishop not known by anyone. As a matter of fact, his name does not appear in any
Pontifical or Salesian Directory. And besides this, even more surprising, this bishop of
ours is a candidate for the honors of the altar. He is the priest Stefano Czmil who led the
first group of young Ukrainians in 1932 to Ivrea. He was also the first Ukrainian Salesian
of the Oriental rite. He professed his first vows on August 16, 1935.

He is the center of an exceptional turn of events. The facts are connected to that great
father and confessor of the faith and martyr of the Ukrainian church Cardinal Josef Slipij,
Metropolitan of Leopoli. His liberation, after 18 years in the Soviet gulag prison,
condemned him at the time to leave his country and to go into permanent exile. In order
to provide the necessities of the church, he secretly and without papal mandate
consecrated three new bishops on April 2, 1977 with the intention to send them to the
fatherland. For this situation to proceed successfully, it was necessary that no one should
know about this event not even the Vatican. The three priests chosen were Husar
Liubomir, archimandrite of the monastery of Albano. He is the present Cardinal and
major Archbishop of the country, His title corresponds to the title of Patriarch of the
Greek-Catholic Church and he resides at Kiev. Then Joan Homa, secretary of Cardinal
Slipij. He eventually becomes Procurator of the Ukrainian church in the Vatican. He died
in 2006. Finally, our Salesian Stefan Czmil, then a collaborator and confidant of Slipoj,
Director of the Salesian community and Rector of the Ukrainian Pontifical Minor
Seminary of St. Josafat in Via Boccea here in Rome.

The consecration occurred at Catelgandolfo at the monastery mentioned and in absolute
secrecy. The three newly-ordained could not exercise their ministries until they arrived
in their country. The unexpected and sorrowful death of Don Czmil occurred on January
22, 1978. His death raised the suspicion that he might have been ordained a bishop. In
fact, to prepare the visiting room in the mortuary, his remains were vested in priestly
vestments and the mitre of an archimandrite, a title which he had even before his
consecration as a bishop. But when Cardinal Slipij arrived to celebrate the funeral liturgy
he ordered that the remains be vested in episcopal vestments. Those present asked “why?
He is only mitred !” It was John Paul II who received him in the Episcopal College and
who recognized the validity of the consecration of the ordained (1966). But our Czmil
was already deceased, a bishop incognito.



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His sanctity was noted by all. Even to the point that the intention now is to open his cause
that would raise him to the honors of the altar. “The saints have the genius of love,” said
Bernanos. And this is the virtue that unanimously everyone noted whenever they were
with him or lived with him.

Time does not allow me to present you with the characteristic traits of the love which
made him a saint. It is enough for me to have shared this unedited history with you,
hoping to have aroused in you the desire to know more and to ask you to pray that we
Ukrainians may have him as our special “protector saint” and that his qualities may
radiate always in us. Cardinal Slipij has said: “he was a man of crystalline character and a
rare father in Christ.” We wish those same qualities for our young Ukrainian Salesians.



March 31, 2008
Rome

Don Rino Pistellato
Delegate




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