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Catholic World News News Feature

Ukrainian prelate defends controversial move to Kiev August 19, 2005

Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, has said that his plan to move the headquarters of the Eastern-rite Church to Kiev should not be seen as an offense against any other religious body.

The cardinal's statements came in response to sharp protests by Ukrainian Orthodox officials, who see the transfer of the Byzantine Catholic from Lviv to Kiev as a direct challenge to the traditional Orthodox dominance in eastern Ukraine. Orthodox protesters have demonstrated outside the residence of the papal nuncio in Ukraine, demanding Vatican intervention to stop the move.

But the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church insisted that the move "is not aimed against anybody, and is motivated by the real needs and development of the Byzantine Catholic Church." Cardinal Husar has explained that the Ukrainian Catholic Church-- which suffered brutal persecution during the Stalinist era, and has emerged with new vigor since the collapse of the Communist regime-- deserves representation in the country's cultural and political center.

Metropolitan Volodyymyr, who heads the branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church aligned with the Moscow Patriarchate, has written to Pope Benedict XVI, asking for direct papal intervention to stop the transfer. And Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexei II has said that the move could have serious implications for Catholic-Orthodox relations.

Appeals to the Vatican are not likely to succeed, however, since Cardinal Husar has pointedly observed that in approving the move, the Ukrainian Catholic synod of bishops neither required nor requested the approval of the Holy See. The formal transfer of the see is scheduled for August 21; as of that date, Cardinal Husar will be Archbishop of Kiev.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church is the largest of the world's Eastern-rite churches in communion with the Holy See. Ukrainian Catholics have energetically lobbied the Vatican to recognize a Ukrainian patriarchate-- a move that Orthodox leaders adamantly oppose.