Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky CNS

Andrey Sheptytsky and the lions of Lviv

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  • July 30, 2015

Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) for 44 tumultuous years, has been decreed by the Vatican to be worthy of sainthood, needing only an approved miracle for him to be beatified.

The decree was published the day I arrived here in Lviv, where the great metropolitan is buried. I intended to pray at his tomb in St. George’s Cathedral, but did not expect that it would be on the first full day that he was now the Venerable Andrey Sheptytsky, 70 years after his death in 1944 and just days before the sesquicentennial of his birth in 1865, observed here with the unveiling of a monument in the civic plaza in front of St. George’s on July 29.

Metropolitan Andrey became head of the UGCC in 1900 when Ukraine did not exist on the map of Europe. Lviv belonged, like its sister Galician city of Krakow, to the Habsburg empire of Vienna. In the 44 years of his patriarchal ministry his see city of Lviv came under the control of Tsarist Russia, which imprisoned him, competing Polish, Russian and Ukrainian forces after the Great War, fight to establish the new borders and the possibility of Polish and Ukrainian independence; the sovereignty of the new Polish independent state; the Soviet Union as it expanded its sphere of influence, culminating with the Red Army’s invasion of September 1939; the Nazis as they made their way through Ukraine toward Moscow in 1941; and finally the Soviets again as the Red Army took Lviv in the last months of his life. On his deathbed, Sheptytsky predicted that Stalin would try to utterly annihilate the UGCC, which he soon did, suppressing its legal status and sending Sheptytsky’s successor to hard labour in the Soviet gulag for 18 years.

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