Last week brought many meaningful moments to the Ukrainian communities in Canada and the United States, and also to the general public of the two countries as they welcomed leaders of all the major religious denominations of Ukraine: Greek and Latin Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim, as well as leaders of mainstream Protestant organizations.
Members of the delegation represented The Ukrainian Union of Churches and Religious Organizations, which represents some 95 percent of Ukraine’s believers. The main purpose of this North American visit was to promote awareness of the heroic work of Metropolitan Archbishop Andrey Sheptytsky (old/broken link: https://www.sheptytskyinstitute.ca/?page_id=6), who spoke and acted courageously to protect ethnic and religious minorities targeted by the Nazi regime in Europe during World War II, risking for example his own life to save more than 160 Jews from the Nazis. The metropolitan archbishop was also a champion of Christian unity and interreligious cooperation.
The delegation’s visit to North America includes stops in Toronto, Ottawa, Washington and New York. The representatives are scheduled to participate in a series of conferences and meetings with state officials and leaders of the local religious communities.
This visit proved to be exceptionally productive in Ottawa, where a special motion in Canada’s parliament was unanimously passed in the House of Commons to honor Metropolitan Sheptytsky for his courageous actions on behalf of the oppressed Jewish people in Ukraine during World War II. Also, an organization that has long worked closely with CNEWA Canada — the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies —hosted an excellent symposium at Saint Paul University called “Ethical Actions in Extreme Conditions”. The symposium elaborated on the personality of Metropolitan Sheptytsky and the socio-historical context of his work. Among the distinguished speakers at the symposium were Rabbi Yaakov Don Bleich, Chief Rabbi of Kyiv and Ukraine and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who succeeds Metropolitan Sheptytsky as the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
The visit opened a new era in Ukrainian-Jewish dialogue, and it has initiated development of a common approach in addressing sensitive issues of the past and fostering mutual cooperation in the future. The visit was organized and sponsored by the Ukrainian-Jewish Encounter, a non-profit organization that promotes dialogue and cooperation between Jewish and Ukrainian peoples; it was established in 2008 by a a Ukrainian-Canadian businessman Mr. James Temerty.