November 1, 1944: The Repose Of Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky

Each year, I am glad to write something on late Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky who died on November 1st, 1944 under the communist rule in Ukraine. 76 years have passed. His personality will definitely question the Church, Judaism, Israel, the Jewish authorities in charge of determine who acted with exceptional insights during World War II. At the present, the Ukrainian Churches are broken down into several contradictory positions and directions. Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Belarus and the territories that were under control of the Habsburg during the lifetime of Metropolitan Sheptytsky got through new – maybe not final – borders and incite to constant debates on the real space alloted to each nation or so-called State.

Kyr Andrii Sheptytsky was not a Ukrainian nationalist. He lived in a time when East and West rediscovered their long-age Christian traditions. He was well-aware of the deep connections that should be reinstored in his own episcopal territory of Ukriane and Transcarpathia, with incourses into present Hungary, Romania, Poland. His “serving authority” expanded till North and South america, Africa and Australia due to the first large foreign worker emigrations. The Ukrainians had to make their money abroad and often used to come back home or to settle in the diaspora.

Russia was also a part of his canonical territory before and during the Bolshevik Revolution. Things changed drastically after World War II, when all the clergy and lay people were submitted to harsh persecution and extermination. Twenty years ago, the collapse of the communist power created a new situation. Each jurisdiction felt free or “released” in the Slavic area. The Greek Catholics and the Orthodox Church(es) started to measure their influence and redeployment. They could not settle their own disagreements for the moment and this is evident. It will take some time.

The Ukrainian Church is tempted as it has often been throughout the ages. Ukraine is not really defined in stable borders. The whole country and State is more likely to be compared with a “kordon/Кордон = a rope, frontier” that cannot be fixed and changed a lot in the course of historic turbulences.

The language is very close to Church Slavonic. It has not the prestige of Russian or Polish, is often denied or considered as a sign of strict nationalism. When I pray in Ukrainian along with Hebrew and Yiddish in Jerusalem and Israel, many faithful do not understand why I do so! But they do not think of the fact that we are in a rare situation in the Hebrew State: Jews and Ukrainians could arrive and build the country by working peacefully and legally in Israel while it was absolutely not the case in the Ukraine, from the ancient time of the Tzars, the Yiddishkayt, the civil war and Revolution, the communist rule and the Nazi occupation for a while and only in sqome specific areas in the West.

From 1958 till now, Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky has been viewed as through various chromatic kaleidoscope by the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Russians, the Germans, Hungarians, Romanians, Jews and Gyppies, the Byzantine Eastern rite clergy, the Latin clergy and the corresponding flocks.

When Kurt Lewin, the son of the late Rabbi of L’viv who was murdered as he had left the house of the Archbishop major, could hardly explain to the Ukrainian clergy that he met in Innsbrück and Canada what the real situation has been in the Ukraine and the unbelievable courage shown by Metropolitan Andrii. They were more linked to the Nazi fallen Reich. Moreover he was a Jew and his listeners were not that interested in the Patriarch of L’viv saving lives of Jews and non-Jews for the sake of Christian and human rights and decency.

The recent developments of Church relationships and difficulties in trying to resolve the numerous Church entities and multi-faceted “Eastern Orthodox and Eastern rite” bodies could lead to scan history as it appeared in the 20th century by the time of short independence of Ukraine after World War I. One of the elements that could allow a wide prospect of the situation and to compare with present-day evolution is to be found in the English version translated by Fr. Serge Keleher (+ in 2011) of the book written in French by Fr. Cyrille Korolevsky, a great friend and collaborator of Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky, Metropolitan of L’viv (L’vov, Lwów, Lemberg, Leopol). The procurator in charge of collecting all the documents is still Mgr. Michael Hrynchyshyn, a Canadian Saskaсhewan Province -Buchanan-born Ukrainian bishop who was called to work on this exceptional hierarch in 1958, when the trial of canonization started. Kyr Michael Hrynchyshyn is now retiring from his office in Western Europe, but will definitely continue his service for the recognition of Metropolitan Andrii with much dedication and eager. (He passed away on November 12, 2012).

I wrote manyoecuménisme, Christianisme oriental, Judaïsme, Ukraine, Orthodoxie notes and articles to Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky. Born on 1865/07/29 in Prybylchi (Poland-Ukraine) he died on 1944/11/1 in L’viv. It is again and again possible to mention Prof. Gutman’s (former Yad VaShem responsible) that this man of faith was beyond all standards and norms. He spent his life facing permanent aggression from many sides and still acted with wisdom and insights for the good of the Greek Catholic Church of Ukraine, in the mainland and abroad.

He allowed Metropolitan Evlogyi and Archbishop Vladimir appointed by Late St. Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow to reach France and thus to develop the Eastern Orthodox Russian presence in the West.

He is also without contest an exceptional and outstanding personality in the way he worked to help the comprehension of the Jewish identity and culture. In 1916, he organized a great pilgrimage to the Holy Land and there read and spoke Hebrew fluently. In his diocese/eparchy he could spontaneously met in Yiddish and Hebrew with the Jewish communities. We know at the present that he vehemently protested against the deportation and extermination of the Jews to Hitler and Himmler by sending telexes. His famous “Nie Ubyi/Не убий – Thou shalt not kill” pastoral letter sent to all the churches and priests under his responsibility remains a unique act of courage ever shown to that extent by a member of the Christian clergy and high hierarchy. Kurt Lewin (“A Journey Through Illusion” the book has been recently translated into Ukrainian) described how Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky directly saved numerous Jews and children by hiding then and protecting them.

Metropolitan Andrii was paralyzed and spent his time in a wheelchair during the last 15 years of his life, he could manage to control the Ukrainian Church in times of unbelievable turbulence, assisted by his brother, Fr. Klement, and a wide network of connections that still kept him isolated during the Communist regime and the second World War.

The Poles accused him of having left the Roman Rite in order to restore the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He has been in contact with most of the contemporary thinkers (Metropolitan Evlogyi, Vladimir Soloviov) and helped create places of encounter between the Eastern and Western Churches, thus paving the way for a renewed dialogue, such as the Monastery at Chevetogne.

He has been considered as an “overall suspect”: twice, he was obliged to manage the invasion of the German army that took control of the Ukraine (Western area) and then to combat the Nazis. He had to face the civil war in the Ukraine, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise and power of the communists, twice and in different circumstances. Stalin did not dare (and this is also unique) touch the Greek Catholic clergy and waited till the 40th day of mourning was over to seize and deport the clergy.

He has been accused of treason and collaboration with the French and/or the Germans (World War I), the Nazis (World War II), the communists (in between and till his death). Strangely enough – though it is a typical habit, the archives that best depict his actions were to be found in the communist Soviet offices of the KGB.

I often mention his “trudy/труди – works” and would read his sermons or pastoral letters in Ukrainian in my church and on different occasions. This is a very simple matter: undoubtedly, Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky’s attitudes and personality go far beyond the Ukrainian Church.

It would be a terrible mistake, that sadly often shows at the moment to make an icon of Metropolitan Andrii’s dedication and venerate him as a Ukrainian nationalist. On the other hand, he was definitely aware – with the words, style and ideas of his time – that the Church that developed from Kiev and expanded in the Ukraine and the widespread Slavic areas has a specific universal role to play in the symphony of the Body of the Resurrected Lord.

This is not the way people would consider his path at the present. It is suspicious because his personality overgoes all the standards of the clergy hierarchy, in particular in such a troublesome region as Ukraine and the surrounding countries and cultures. He showed an exception character that was not to be found among the Christian clergy during the time of the Catastrophe. Conflicts are easier to mention than unity as he tried to achieve some of his goals in times of incredible hardships.

In Israel, Metropolitan Andrii’s actions and thoughts should be a model of reflection upon the situation of Israeli society. Social and inter-cultural, ethnic, spiritual and political problems show intriguing parallels with our building of a new and unexpected human reality. Our society matches and gathers together Jews, Arabs and other ethnic groups, beyond and often against their own will or acceptance.

In many ways, Metropolitan Sheptytsky deals with something that is really close to our turmoil or contemporary “pangs of birth”. He answered to hatred by love and strongly called to ethics and moral dynamics with faith.

I definitely do not intend to present the following excerpts of the above mentioned book by some political or religious a-priori’s. I would not give an opinion about the troublesome religious situation in the Ukraine in the present. It would by just full of pretence and would restrict and fence the possibility that such a personality allows to open up as he did envision new prospects. Moreover, in the present context, this portion of the text is never referred to and is ignored. It shows that history in the region comes up and up again, with a constant mixture of call to opacity and blindness. As Raphael Lempkin stated with much insight and defined after World War II, the Slavic regions have no real in-depth experience of any legal structure. Therefore, until now, all the nations that live among the concerned people are systematically “slaughtered down” by the absence of real justice. Even Christian “righteousness” is deprived form the local cultural awareness and denied.

It is also worth noting how Metropolitan Andrii finally used to take decisions and keep on the line that underscores the spiritual benefits of the faithful, an aspect rarely expressed by the media nowadays.

Andrew proposed as Ukrainian Patriarch

“Among the many questions demanding the attention of the Ukrainian government (headed by Paul Skoropadsky in 1918-1919) the ecclesiastical organization for the country. What Catholic organization was left in Tsarist Ukraine was all Roman, except for the small Greek-Catholic group which was just beginning to organize at Kiev. Only later, under Petliura’s government, was Ukraine represented at the Holy See, first by Count Michael Tyszkiewicz, the scion of an old Ukrainian family which had been Romanised like so many others, and then when the Count was sent to Paris as head of the Ukrainian delegation at the peace conference, by Father François-Xavier Bonne, a Belgian Redemptorist who was serving as a Greek-Catholic so as to help the Ukrainian immigrants in Canada. Father Bonne had come to Galicia and in Count Bobrinskoy’s time was named eclesiastical administrator of the district of Ternopil – since he was a Belgian citizen, Bobrinskoy did not dare to expel him. For the moment, Skoropadsky was only concerned for the Orthodox Church.

There of the Russian Church, at the moment when the Bolsheviks were taking power in Moscow. were two parties. Those favourable to a future accord with Russia would wish an arrangement with Patriarch Tikhon (Beliavin) of Moscow, elected on 28 October (O.S.) 1917 by the National Council of the Russian Church, at a moment when the Bolsheviks were taking power in Moscow. In Kiev, this party recognized Metropiltan Anthony (Khrapovitsky), former Archbishop of Volyn, who had been one of the most active propagandists for Orthodoxy in Galicia; he was confirmed as Metropolitan of Kiev by Patriarch Tikhon. Those who demanded complete independence for Ukraine also had to demand ecclesiastical independence with a Ukrainian chief hierarch, according to the customs of the Orthodox Church. As the two groups did not come to any understanding, a council was called for 21 JUne 1918. The autocephalist party dreamed of establishing a Patriarchate at Kiev, like the one in Moscow, although Kiev had nver had a Patriarchate – historically Kiev had been a dependency of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

An attentive observer will realize that the autocephalist party was moved purely by nationalist considerations and thought very little of dogma. This group actually ofered the patriarchal throne to the one who most represented the Ukrainian world in his own person, Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky – who was in communion with the Holy See of Rome. If this proposal would have been accomplished it would have had vast consequences, when one considers the significance of ecclesiastical communion according to the Orthodox understanding. Ecclesiastical communion depends uniquely on the head of the particular Church, whom the metropolitans and bishops solemnly commemorate during the services. If this chief hierarch is Catholic, his whole Church is Catholic in view of his communion with the Pope. Since the only point of doctrine which matters for the great majority of the people, and even for the lower clergy, is the recognition of the Papal primacy of honour and jurisdiction, the election of Metropolitan Andrew would have reunited Ukraine to the Catholic Church in one moment. Although this prospect was dubious, one can understand how seriously he took it. However he had to set clearly in a letter to Archduke Wilhelm, the son of Archduke Charles Stephan, the Austrian candidate for an eventual Ukrainian throne. The draft of this letter was later found when the Poles searched the Metropolitan’s palace in L’viv; the Poles published it with a photographic facsimile of the beginning and the essential section, in an effort to prove the Metropolitan’s political intrigues. No résumé could replace the actual text:

“L’viv, 13 June 1918

I have learned htat one party of the general Synod of the Ukrainian Church which is to assemble one the 21st of this month (the letter is dated) is thinking of offering me the dignity of Ukrainian Patriarch. This initiative is both an expression of opposition to the election of Anthony as Metropolitan of Kiev and a concrete affirmation of the autocephaly, Although the reactionaries are mortally opposed to autocephaly, it nevertheless is the wish of the Ukrainians. The Hetman (Paul Skoropadsky at that time) has declared that if the Synod does not come to a decision on the matter, he will have to grant the autocephaly himself. Should the first eventuality come to pass, I shall inform Your Imerial Highness of the matter andof my eventual position in the affair. I could only accept an absolutely free election by a large majority which would thus have canonical value according to the principles of the Eastern Church. It goes without saying that such an election would by its very fact mean an acceptance of the Church Union. For the moment, the powers which I have received from Pope Pius X are sufficient. Naturally, I should also ask the assent of His Majesty.

“At L’viv it is difficult for me to have more exact information. Since people know that I have been in favour of this idea for a long time, they urge me to prepare the election by some propaganda. In principle I would not want to do this, and anyway there is not enough time. If Your Imperial Highness knows or should learn anything on this matter, I would be most grateful to have the information…”

One mus read this letter with great attention. It shows that the Metropolitan was favourable to the idea of the autonomy of the Church in Ukraine, which is completely in accord with the principles of the Eastern Church and to the current practice of the Catholic Church, with the proper understanding of the term “autonomy”. In the seventeenth century, there was a proposal to erect a Patriarchate at Kiev, and Propaganda considered the matter; I have found (says Fr. Cyrille Korolevsky) the proof in the archives and the copy I made was in the Metropolitan’s hands. He read everything I sent him with the greatest attention. On principle, he did not wish to do anything for his personal advantage. He saw a means to joint the whole of Ukraine to the Catholic Church, provided that the election was done by a large majority, which would have assured stability. of jurisdiction of the Pope, who would have had to confirm this election. And in the Metropolitan’s view, such an offer would mean, in practice, the acceptance of church union, that is the recognition of the primacy of the jurisdiction of the Pope, who would have had to confirm this election. No Catholic bishop in the Metropolitan’s position could have acted more appropriately and more prudently.

As to Skoropadsky’s conviction that he himself could grant the autocephaly, no one who knows Orthodox practice will be surprised, because for the Orthodox Church the supreme authority after Christ – Who is no longer on earth – is the Ecumenical Council, but such a Council since 787 (the Orthodox do not consider the council has not been held of 869 which condemned Photius ecumenical). The Romanian Patriarchate was founded on 4 February 1925 by the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church and received legal sanction from the Kingdom of Romania on 12 February of that year. Only afterwards was the assent of the Patriarchate of Constantinople requested – Constantinople did not refuse. It was the same for the Bulgarians, although in that case Constantinople took longer to concede. According to the principles of the Orthodox Church, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has a primacy of honour, but no primacy of jurisdiction.

But back to Kiev. The party opposed to a complete break with Russia gained the upper hand so the idea of autocephaly for the Church of Kiev was abandoned by the Council. Was the whole idea viable? Certainly not: Kyr Andrew (Sheptytsky) would have had the greatest difficulties to convince the bishops to accept the primacy of the Pope, let alone the other controverted dogmas, and there would eventually have been an internal schism.”


The Polish-Russian armistice was signed on 11 October and ratified by the Polish Diet on the 23rd. The definite treaty was made on 18 March 1921″.

Excerpts from: Cyril Korolevsky: Metropolitan Andrew (1865-1944), translated and revised by Serge Keleher, L’viv 1993, pp. 213-217). The original book by Fr. Cyrille Korolevsky – born Jean-François Charon at Caen (France). His account in French is difficult to read because of the many mistakes in French. He was a brilliant priest and had spent most of his life in th service of the Eastern Churches. His testimony gives a unique description of the multi-faceted and numerous problems that Metropolitan had to face during his long pastoral service of the Greek-Catholic Church in the Ukraine and abroad, in particular in North and South America. He was very capable and acute. His testimony is indeed essential at the present because his had envisioned the many developments that show up at the present in a very troublesome situation. Nonetheless, being a French by birth and having open-minded views and prospects on the Eastern Middle-Eastern and Slavic Churches, he describes the facts with much distance that a local specialist would hardly reach. His book “Métropolite André Szeptyckyj, 1865-1944 – was published in Rome in 1964 in “Працi Украïнського Богословського Наукового Товариства – Opera Theologicae Societatis Scientificae Ucrainorum – vol. XVI-XVII with a preface by Cardinal Eugène Tisserant, one of the greatest specialist of Eastern Churches.

Incidentally, it should be noted that Cardinal E. Tisserant, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches at Rome, pleaded the cause of the first Hebrew-praying four Roman Catholic priests who celebrated in the language in 1952; he had stressed that the Chaldean Oriental rite was the most adequate, but the Western origin of the concerned clergy drove it to full Latinization. N.B. “Hebrew in the Church of Jerusalem” has been in use by the blessing of a remarkable translation by Fr. Levinson of the Divine Liturgy by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow in 1852, i.e. before the restoration of the Patriarchate of Moscow.I use this text because of its official recognition, validity and real beauty.

It should be noted that the above mentioned quotation from a specific situation confronted by late Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky should correctly be understood. In his quotation and comments, Fr. Cyril Korolevsky draw the attention of the readers to very special points. These are very parallel to the situation that the Eastern Orthodox Church is embattled with at the present in Ukraine. The excerpts are followed by a clairvoyant description of the dangers that Ukraine can both generate and be obliged to affront from the part of the Poles, the Central European Powers and Russia. Interestingly “za kordonu = at the frontier, on the rope of the border that has always been difficult to determine”. As if the “cord”, also maybe mostly in a spiritual connection would imply the emergence of a lot of unexpected and “imperiling” factors. We should also keep in mind that the history of the Church of the Rus’ of Kiev and then Moscow has been tragic over the centuries. It has been deeply assaulted by invaders coming from Asia (Mongols, Tatars) and from the West (Poland, Lithuania).

Nonetheless, Eastern Orthodox Churches of the Rus’ have also been also influenced by the Westerners, both the Latins and the Protestants that introduced special habits that were not present in the Greek tradition (Holy Confession).

This text should be measured adequately. It shows one or two invariants and also refers to constant traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Churches that should normally be respected by the Oriental Churches united to Rome. A last remark that is very rarely mentioned. The Second Council of Vatican was adopted by the Roman Church and its Oriental components, provided that the Patriarchs heading the Oriental Churches would confirm and ratify the decision upon their return to their local ecclesiastical areas. This had not been done. They never convoked the concerned Synods for different reasons. Some Churches – like the Greek-Catholics/Melkites – claim to adopt the decisions of the Council with the provision that the Eastern Orthodox Churches would also join in such decisions, which can hardly be the case for the moment. It is evident that the Roman clergy and faithful are not directly concerned or aware of this pending situation.

The Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine (Акт проголошення незалежності України) was passed on August 24, 1991 by the Ukrainian Parliament and widely confirmed by the referendum dated December 1, 1991 (90% of the voters). This happened 18 years ago and the National Day will take place on forthcoming Monday 24th of August 2009.

With regard to the exceptional personality of Metropolitan Andrii Sheptytsky and the “above any sort of nationalism” position that he adopted, this text, as many others readily quoted in other notes and articles, brings some light on how to go ahead with God’s assistance.

archpriest Aleksandr [Winogradsky Frenkel]

Av Aleksandr

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