Letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav

To the Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops,
the Reverend and Venerable Priests and Deacons,
the Venerable Monks and Nuns, and
the Laity—dear to us in Christ—of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

Dear Brothers and Sisters! We present to you this Catechism of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC). It is both a profession and an explanation of our Church’s faith in the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This faith emerged from a listening to the Gospel of Christ, which—according to tradition—first resounded in the lands of Rus-Ukraine through the preaching of Saint Andrew the First-Called. This same Good News echoed onwards through the mission of the holy apostles to the Slavs, Cyril and Methodius, and was ultimately ratified in the Baptism of Rus-Ukraine during the reign of Volodymyr the Great, Equal-to-the-Apostles. The Word of the Gospel found its response of faith in the hearts of those who listened. Thus Christ’s Church spread throughout Kyivan Rus. This new Christian tradition—with the appropriate appellation of Kyivanbecame a pearl in the Universal Church’s treasury of faith. Countless generations of Christians, of Ukrainian as well as other cultures, were raised in this tradition.

Building upon Tradition, this Catechism opens itself to the present. One of the foremost signs of the times is that our Church is found not only in Ukraine, but also in many countries beyond her borders. This requires a strengthening of the spiritual bonds between the faithful of our Church, set upon the foundation of the one Christian heritage. A profound grasp of our Christian roots aids in the discovery of our own identity in the modern world, with its challenges of globalization and assimilation, and also helps us discern the universal value of our Eastern tradition. The current state of the UGCC in Ukraine and throughout the world, and the questions posed by the Church’s faithful, define this Catechism’s goal: to help the faithful to better understand, and more profoundly embody within their own lives, the Christian faith handed down to them by the Fathers of our Church—the hierarchs, martyrs, confessors, and venerables—and to nurture our Kyivan-Christian tradition, finding in it the light needed to respond to today’s challenges.

The UGCC Catechism, Christ – Our Pascha, expounds the Church’s doctrine of the faith in three parts: the faith of the Church, the prayer of the Church, and the life of the Church. All these sections are prefaced by an Introduction, wherein the rule of prayer of the Anaphora of the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great provides a methodological principle for the rule of faith, as professed by the Church and as taught in the Catechism. Quotations from the Anaphora serve as epigraphs to the separate sections of the Catechism, uniting them into a coherent whole. The themes of the Catechism are developed on the basis of passages from Sacred Scripture, the inheritance of the Church Fathers and UGCC Fathers in particular, the decisions of Ecumenical and Particular Church Councils, theological works, the lives of the saints, and iconography. The Catechism presents both the historical and modern transmission of Tradition, so that the faithful may draw from the treasury of faith, from both “what is new and what is old” (Mt 13:52).

This Catechism witnesses to the intrinsic relation of the Kyivan-Christian tradition to universal Christianity. Thus, this Catechism addresses the UGCC faithful, as well as members of other Churches and all people who are sincerely seeking the Truth. The Synod of Bishops offers this Catechism as a source of catechetical education for continuing growth in faith of the UGCC faithful. At the same time, this Catechism is a symbol of our communion in faith with the other Particular Churches within the bosom of the one Catholic Church.

The Catechism Christ – Our Pascha continues a tradition of written and published catechisms in the UGCC going back to the sixteenth century. Since then, there has not been a century during which a new catechism has not appeared. Among those deserving mention are the seventeenth-century Catechism compiled by the priest-martyr Saint Josaphat, Archbishop of Polotsk; eighteenth-century catechism entitled The Proclamation or Oration to the Catholic World ; and The Great Catechism for Parochial Schools published in the nineteenth-century. Finally, in the twentieth century, there was the catechism, God’s Teachings.

The commemoration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Rus-Ukraine in 1988, followed by the emergence of the underground UGCC, led to an awareness of the need for a new catechism in which the Christian faith would be handed down as part of the stream of our own thousand-year tradition. An important step in the creation of this Catechism was the publication of the UGCC Catechetical Directory,[1] which defined the main characteristics of catechetical ministry that are particular to our Church’s identity.

In 1992 the Catechism of the Catholic Church was published, and a Ukrainian translation appeared in 2002.[2] One of the goals of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was to serve as an authentic and proper guide for the compilation of future local catechisms. “This Catechism is not meant as a substitute for the various local catechisms. … Rather it is meant to encourage the creation of new and local catechisms that are better equipped to take into account the unique nuances of particular cultures, while at the same time remaining diligently faithful to the unity of faith and Catholic teaching.”[3] Our predecessor, His Beatitude Lubomyr, in the introduction to the Ukrainian translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, expressed his confidence that “in due time, our Church will also provide her faithful with theological explanations based on the foundation of her own tradition.”[4]

The particularity of the UGCC theological tradition, which is Eastern Christian in origin, defines the need of a separate catechism for our Church. Blessed John Paul II, Pope of Rome, drew attention to this theological particularity: “In the study of revelation, East and West have followed different methods … these various theological formulations are often to be considered mutually complementary rather than conflicting.”[5] His Beatitude Lubomyr expressed this same thought: “Christ’s teaching is one and the same for everyone. Faith in Christ is also the same for all Catholics, regardless of which Rite or Particular Church they belong to. However, the theological understanding of divinely revealed Truths can be different in various cultures, just as liturgical Rites are different.”[6]

In the Catechism Christ – Our Pascha we are called to embody in our daily lives the one inheritance of the faith, as transmitted in the light of our theological tradition—to deepen, nurture, and transmit it to future generations. We trust that our bishops, priests, monks, catechists, and all the faithful of our Church, will make every effort to ensure that this Catechism, Christ – Our Pascha, enters into all of the spheres of our Church’s life and activity. May this Catechism, the fruit of the joint work and prayer of our entire Church, become for all of us a powerful catalyst for renewal as well as confirmation in the Faith, according to our Eastern Christian tradition. This Catechism is intended as a foundation and encouragement for catechetical ministry in all its dimensions.

The publication of the Catechism Christ – Our Pascha coincides with the tenth anniversary of the beatification of the Martyrs and Blesseds of our Church, who by their lives gave witness to an unwavering faith in the Most Holy Trinity, to a faithfulness and commitment to Christ’s Church, as well as to a sacrificial love for one’s people. May their example and holy prayers accompany us in our own witness of faith in Christ’s Truth and the Church’s unity.

May the blessing of the Lord be upon you.

+ Sviatoslav,
Head and Father of the UGCC

Given at Kyiv at the Patriarchal Sobor of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord
June 2, 2011

[1]   UGCC Catechetical Commission, The Catechetical Directory of the UGCC (1999).

[2]   Catechism of the Catholic Church, trans. UGCC Synod of Bishops (2002).

[3]   John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Depositum fidei [The Deposit of Faith].

[4]   Patriarch Lubomyr Husar, Вступне слово до перекладу Катехизму Католицької Церкви українською мовою [Introduction to the Ukrainian Translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church].

[5]   Vatican Council II, Decree Unitatis Redintegratio [The Restoration of Unity], 1964), 17 as quoted in John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen [The Light of the East], 5.

[6]   Patriarch Lubomyr Husar, Вступне слово до перекладу Катехизму Католицької Церкви українською мовою [Introduction to the Ukrainian Translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church].

Photo credit this section: Longin Wawrynkiewicz. Wikipedia Commons.