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ePoshta | 13May2012 | Will Zuzak

Death of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada

As a child growing up on a farm in central Saskatchewan in the 1940s, my religious perceptions developed via monthly church attendance at the villages of Yellow Creek and Tarnopol. Later, this was reinforced by my older cousin Stefan Zuzak -- a survivor of German prisons, concentration camps and death marches -- who fulfilled his promise to God that, if he were to survive, he would serve Him as a priest. His brother spent many years in the Siberian Gulags following WWII. Still later, as a resident of the Petro Mohyla Institute, I was inspired by the stories of the creation of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada (UGOCC) by the triple S -- Sawchuk, Stechyshyn, Swystun -- later cemented by the inspiring intellect of Metropolitan Ohienko.

The overriding concerns of both the creators and members of the UGOCC were the preservation and nourishment of the Ukrainian soul -- the language and the culture. The perception was that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church -- with its non-Ukrainian clergy and hierarchy -- was not particularly interested in the Ukrainian soul. The name "Greek Orthodox" in lieu of "Greek Catholic" emphasized that although they were offspring of Greek Catholic parents they were returning to their ancestral pre-1596 "Ukrainian" Orthodox faith. It was clearly understood that the church buildings and property belonged to members of the parish and not to the church hierarchy. No one would have tolerated interference in church affairs by people from outside Canada. And no one even thought about canonicity.

If the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada and its clergy were/are not canonical, does this imply that I am not a Christian? I am now officially a heathen? I fully agree with Bishop Paul Peter Jesep when he states: “Canonical status is about politics.  It’s about power.  It has nothing to do with God, faith, or loving more and judging less to make a better world."

That is why the latest kerfuffle with Patriarch Filaret and the order of Patriarch Bartholomew via Metropolitan Yurij Kalistchuk [19Apr2012] for my religious representatives to boycott all functions in the vicinity of Patriarch Filaret is so painful to me and to so many other Ukrainians. An outsider is dictating what we must do in Canada. An outsider and/or Metropolitan Yurij are laying claim to my parish property. The canonicity canard is threatening my Christianity. My clergy refuses to pray for the soul of my relatives and the UPA. They refuse to represent me in Parliament when Andrei Sheptytsky is honoured.

The souls of the founders of the Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church of Canada, including the souls of my parents, are not resting easy today.

Respectfully submitted,
Will Zuzak; 2012.04.30