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Leader of Ukrainian Catholic Church resigns

Catholic World News - February 09, 2011

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, has resigned at the age of 77.

Cardinal Husar asked Pope Benedict XVI to accept his resignation because of his declining health, according to informed sources within the Ukrainian Catholic Church. The Pope has reportedly accepted his request, although no official announcement has yet been released.

The resignation of the Ukrainian prelate, who has led the Eastern-rite Church since 2001, would trigger a meeting of the Ukrainian Synod of Bishops to elect a new Major Archbishop.

With well over 7 million faithful—including large numbers in the US and Canada as well as Ukraine-- the Ukrainian Catholic Church is by far the largest of the Byzantine churches in communion with the Holy See. Brutally persecuted during the Stalin era, the Ukrainian Catholic Church emerged with new vigor in Ukraine after the fall of the Communist regime.

Ukrainian Catholics have argued forcefully for the recognition of a Ukrainian Catholic patriarchate. The late Pope John Paul II reportedly gave that possibility serious consideration, but was ultimately dissuaded by the recognition that the Russian Orthodox Church, which claims Ukraine as part of its historical sphere– would vehemently object.

In 2005, under the guidance of Cardinal Husar, the major see of the Ukrainian Catholic Church was moved from Lviv to Kiev, the nation’s capital. That move was opposed by the some Orthodox leaders, particularly in Moscow, who saw it as a bid to extend Catholic influence in a region that has been mostly Orthodox.

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