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Ukrainian cardinal known for simplicity, humor, holiness dies at 84

01 Jun 2017 – By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Ukrainian Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, known for his “velvety baritone” when chanting the Divine Liturgy or making one of his regular appearances on television or radio programs, died May 31 near Kiev at the age of 84.

Like many Ukrainian Catholics around the world, he knew what it meant to be a refugee, to spend time in a displaced persons’ camp, to immigrate and to start all over again.

But the experience also helped him become fluent in five languages, “and he could joke in all of them,” said Ukrainian Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris.

And in a post-Soviet Ukraine, where leadership often meant “a compulsive passion” for money and power, “he lived in exemplary simplicity,” Bishop Gudziak told Catholic News Service June 1.

“In Ukrainian folklore, a blind elder is considered a sage,” the bishop said. “He was the wise man of the country, a real father whose embrace, word, warm smile and sense of humor — often self-deprecating — gave people a sense of joy and peace.”

Cardinal Husar also was an avid blogger and published his last piece May 1, a blog about politicians who show their loyalty to a church only to gain votes.

He saw a lack of ethical behavior and declining moral standards as a major problem at home and abroad, one that required a creative pastoral response.

“Addressing the problem of morality is not a matter of reciting rules, rules, rules, but of helping people to do God’s will,” he said in an interview with CNS in 2005.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who was only 40 years old in 2011 when he succeeded Cardinal Husar as archbishop of Kiev-Halych and head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, cried as he spoke to reporters June 1 about the cardinal’s death.

“He was the spiritual father of the Ukrainian people, and today, in one moment, we became orphans,” Archbishop Shevchuk told the press. The cardinal was a “great man, great pastor, great Ukrainian.”

One of the first questions reporters asked was when the process for Cardinal Husar’s beatification would begin. Archbishop Shevchuk replied that everyone who met the cardinal saw the beauty of his holiness, but the formal sainthood process requires prayer and time. Standard Vatican rules require a waiting period of five years from the time of a person’s death before the process can begin.

In a condolence message to Archbishop Shevchuk, Pope Francis recalled the cardinal’s “tenacious fidelity to Christ despite the deprivations and persecutions” suffered by the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was forced into the underground by the communists.

“His fruitful apostolic activity to promote the organization of Greek Catholic faithful who were descendants of those forcibly transferred from Western Ukraine” and, simultaneously, his efforts to promote “dialogue and collaboration” with the Orthodox also were noted by the pope.

The cardinal’s body was being driven to Lviv, his hometown, June 1 for two days of memorial services there. His funeral was scheduled for June 5 in Kiev.





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