George Weigel on the Ukraine–A Church of martyrs confronts the cultural iron curtain

The L’viv Old Town also houses the Cathedral of St. George, center of the Greek Catholic Archeparchy of L’viv. In the cathedral’s crypt are the tombs of two men whose names do not figure prominently in today’s debates over the corruptions of the Yanukovych regime, but whose dramatic lives may suggest a path beyond the culture of corruption and conformism that threatens to turn Ukraine into a simulacrum of Belarus ”” another country in which the intellectual iron curtain has yet to be torn down, with dire effects on both politics and the economy. Andrey Sheptytsky, a man of broad culture, who was the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church for 43 turbulent years, from 1901 until 1944, is buried there. Next to him is the man Sheptytsky chose to succeed him and whom he secretly consecrated a bishop: Josyf Slipyj, model for the Ukrainian pope in Morris West’s novel The Shoes of the Fisherman, and a leader whose dreams of a Greek Catholic Church nourishing the public culture of a free Ukraine are beginning to be realized by the efforts of one of his spiritual sons ”” who happens to have been born in Syracuse, N.Y.

Whether those dreams come to fruition may be the key factor in determining whether Ukraine, like the Baltic states and Poland, follows the historic path into Europe taken by similar victims of Stalin’s imperialism, or whether it becomes Belarus 2.0: a vast land of shattered hopes and another extension of Vladimir Putin’s imperial revanchism.

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