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Ukrainian Catholic leader enthroned; Orthodox delegates attend ceremony

Catholic World News - March 28, 2011

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk was enthroned as the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church—the largest Eastern Church in communion with the Holy See—in a solemn ceremony in Kyiv on March 27.

Representatives of the two largest rival Orthodox groups in Ukraine attended the enthronement ceremony in a welcome gesture of ecumenical good will. The Ukrainian Catholic Church—which was brutally persecuted during the Stalin era, and rose vigorously into public life with the fall of the Communist regime—has often been the focus of tension between Catholic and Orthodox leaders.

Following Ukraine’s independence, the leader of the Moscow-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Filaret, broke with the Russian Orthodox Church to form an independent Kyiv patriarchate. Moscow has never recognized that body, instead backing the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Major Archbishop of Kyiv heads a Church with about 4 million members, both in Ukraine and abroad: particularly in Canada and the US. Members of the Eastern-rite Church have pressed the Vatican for recognition of a Catholic patriarchate in Ukraine: a request that the Holy See has resisted to date.

Major Archbishop Shevchuk, who is only 40 years old, becomes a major figure in the Catholic hierarchy, and especially in ecumenical affairs.

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