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Ukrainian leader who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust is declared venerable

The archbishop, who led the Ukrainian Church for 40 years, died four months into the Soviet occupation

Pope Francis has signed a decree declaring “venerable” Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who led the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the tumultuous period of both world wars and at the beginning of Soviet occupation.sheptytsky

The Pope signed the decree recognising that Metropolitan Sheptytsky heroically lived a life of Christian virtue. The recognition is an initial step in the sainthood process; the Vatican would have to recognise a miracle attributed to his intercession in order for a beatification ceremony to be scheduled.

Metropolitan Sheptytsky led the Ukrainian Catholic Church from 1901 until his death in 1944. During his leadership Ukraine and its people were ruled by seven different regimes: Austrian, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Soviet, Nazi, and finally, the Soviets again.

Ukrainian Catholic Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris told Catholic News Service that while the process for his sainthood opened five decades ago, it was only with the independence of Ukraine in 1991 that Church historians and theologians had access to all his archives. The study required for the sainthood process was not possible while Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.

“It was a rich file,” Bishop Gudziak said. “Metropolitan Sheptytsky was involved in everything, so it took a long time to go through it all.”

“Metropolitan Sheptytsky lived in the house of the Lord and it had a high roof, open doors and open windows – he lived outside the box,” the bishop said. “He reached out to the Orthodox when ecumenism was not official Church policy; he defended the Jews during the Holocaust; and he was close to artists, poets, intellectuals and writers.”

“Like Jesus, Metropolitan Sheptytsky had a very clear sense of his identity and his God-given dignity, which allowed him to be non-defensive and non-aggressive with others,” the bishop said.

Born Roman Aleksander Maria Sheptytsky on July 29, 1865, in Prylbychi near Lviv, he took the name Andrey when he entered the Basilian Order.

Ukrainian Catholics around the world are celebrating the 150th anniversary of his birth, which Bishop Gudziak said, may explain the timing of the decree.

Elected major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church at the age of 36, he quickly became recognised as a social and cultural leader in a situation of great political uncertainty.

He died on November 1, 1944, just four months after the Soviets took definitive control of Lviv. Bishop Gudziak said: “The Soviets did not liquidate the Greek Catholic Church while he was alive.” The metropolitan’s stature was such that they permitted a public funeral for him, but five months after his death, they arrested all the bishops and moved toward declaring the Ukrainian Catholic Church illegal.

“His social teaching, his fine, subtle and prophetic voice allowed the Church to survive,” the bishop said.

Fr Peter Galadza, acting director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario, also mentioned the metropolitan’s efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust – including by personally sheltering them – and his efforts to promote reconciliation among Ukrainians, Russians and Poles.

“It is also important to recall Sheptytsky’s commitment to the poor,” he said in a statement. “Born into an aristocratic family, the archbishop used his resources to create a free clinic, provide countless scholarships and help victims of famine, flooding and war. He personally lived a life of poverty.”

Taken from:

Venerable Andrey Sheptytsky, a spiritual leader for his people

Pope Francis on Thursday approved the publication of decrees recognizing the heroic virtues of eight Servants of God, including Ukrainian Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky, who led his flock during the Second World War.sheptytsky

“Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky was a very important church leader in central and eastern Europe in the first half of the twentieth century,” says Father Athanasius McVay, a scholar specializing in early twentieth century Church history.

Father McVay, a priest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, told Vatican Radio about the life and mission of Metropolitan Sheptytsky.

Venerable Andrey Sheptytsky was born in the Ukrainian village of Prylbychi in 1865, in what was then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was given the name Roman Alexander Maria at baptism, and later took the name Andrey when he entered the Ukrainian monastery of Saint Basil the Great in 1891. “He went to serve the Ukrainian people who required strong spiritual leadership,” McVay says. Sheptytsky “entered the Basilian order, whose mission was to form the oppressed and fallen down Ukrainian people in Austria-Hungary…  and also to promote Church unity.”

Andrey Sheptytsky became Archbishop of Lviv of the Ukrainians and Metropolitan of Halych in 1900, and filled that office until his death in 1944 – an “era of great upheaval” that witnessed two World Wars, and saw the land that is now Ukraine occupied by various groups, including the Soviets and the Nazis.

Throughout the years, Metropolitan Sheptytsky was an important leader for his people – but, says McVay,  he was a reluctant civic leader, because this was just part of his job as a spiritual leader” Despite his historic significance, McVay says, it is Metropolitan Sheptytsky’s “heroic virtues, the Christian virtues, which Pope Francis has officially recognized on behalf of the universal Church.”

Taken from:,_a_spiritual_leader_for_his_people/1159488