Saturday, April 02, 2011

Ukrainian primate: Byzantines must inculturate.

During his first press conference after being chosen as the new leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk offered some encouraging words on inculturation, based on his own experience serving as a bishop in Argentina:
. . . the next question, which I really pushed as we developed this strategy, is the question of inculturation. Maybe this is so important to me because I ended up in South America and asked myself what it meant to be an Eastern rite Christian in Latin American culture. What we here consider east, for that side of the world is north; that is, these geographical orientations are completely different. That’s when I saw the extraordinary interest in our church, and that entire time I preached in Spanish, translating into Spanish the traditional Greek, Old Slavonic spiritual concepts, expressions, and phrases. That culture was in great need of the treasure of faith and spiritual traditions that we have in our Byzantine Eastern spirituality. We as a church descended from the mission of the Slavic Apostles Cyril and Methodius — great translators of the Scripture and liturgy — have an extraordinary mission to continue this translation so we may pray properly and profoundly in English, in Spanish, in Portuguese, in Ukrainian. That is why the question of inculturation is very important. . . .
As I recently noted in passing, Byzantine Christianity is a universal tradition. Though the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has been marked in a particular way by elements of Ukrainian culture and the collective experience of the Ukrainian people, the Greek Catholic or Byzantine tradition is not limited or restricted in any sense by ethnicity or geography. One need not be ethnically Ukrainian to find one's spiritual home in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, just as one need not be Italian to be a Roman Catholic. At the same time, as Vladika Sviatoslav found in Argentina, the Byzantine tradition has something to offer even to cultures where it initially may seem alien. I hope that the new Major Archbishop will continue to make this important message known, and I pray that his words will bear great fruit in the life of the Church. AMDG.


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