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

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.

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

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.

Born Feb. 26, 1933, Lubomyr Husar fled Ukraine with his
parents in 1944 ahead of the advancing Soviet army. He spent the early
post-World War II years among Ukrainian refugees in a displaced persons’ camp
near Salzburg, Austria. In
1949, he immigrated with his family to the United States, eventually becoming a
U.S. citizen.

From 1950 to 1954, he studied at St. Basil’s College Seminary
in Stamford, Connecticut. He continued his studies at The Catholic University
of America in Washington and at Fordham University in New York. He was ordained
a priest of the Ukrainian Diocese of Stamford in 1958.

For the next 11 years, he taught at the Ukrainian seminary
in Stamford and served in parish ministry. Sent to Rome, he earned a doctorate
in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Urbanian University in 1972 and joined
the Ukrainian Studite monastic community.

He was ordained a bishop by Cardinal Josyf Slipyj in 1977
while the church in Ukraine was still illegal and operating from exile in Rome.

When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he returned to his
native country and served as spiritual director of the newly re-established
Holy Spirit Seminary in Lviv.

The synod
of Ukrainian bishops elected him exarch of Kiev-Vyshhorod, a position he took
up in 1996. Several months later, the synod elected him an auxiliary bishop
with special delegated authority to assist Cardinal Myroslav Lubachivsky, the major
archbishop of Lviv.

Cardinal Lubachivsky died in December 2000, and in January 2001
the synod elected then-Bishop Husar to succeed him as head of the Ukrainian Catholic
Church. St. John Paul II made him a cardinal a month later.

Under his leadership and despite strong protests from the
Russian Orthodox Church, in August 2005 Cardinal Husar established the major archiepiscopal
see of Kiev-Halych and transferred the main church offices to Ukraine’s capital.

Cardinal Husar’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with
221 members, although Pope Francis is scheduled to create five new cardinals in
late June.

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Contributing to this story was Mariana Karapinka in Lviv,

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