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Ukrainian Catholic Eparchies Established in Britain, France

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Benedict XVI has raised the church jurisdictions for Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain and France to the level of eparchies, or dioceses, and named the U.S. bishops who had been their exarchs to be their eparchial bishops.

The new diocese in Great Britain will be known as the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, the Vatican announced on 18 January.

The new diocese in France will be known as the Eparchy of St. Volodymyr the Great.

Both eparchies are named after their cathedral churches.

Bishop Hlib Lonchyna, 58, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, who had served as apostolic exarch for Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain since 2011, will continue his work — but with a new title, the Vatican said.

Bishop Borys Gudziak, 52, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., is the eparchial bishop of the new Paris-based eparchy. He was installed on 2 December as the exarch for Ukrainian Catholics in France. He also ministers to Ukrainian Catholics in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

According to Vatican statistics, there are just over 10,000 Ukrainian Catholics in Great Britain, served by 12 diocesan priests. The elevation of the jurisdiction to an eparchy or diocese usually indicates a growth in the stability of a Catholic population and of priests and religious to serve them.

In an email response to questions, Bishop Lonchyna said: “An exarchate is a temporary structure and may be suppressed if there is no need for it” — for example, if most of the people have died or moved away. “But an eparchy, like a diocese, is permanent; it may not be suppressed. If, however, there no longer are any faithful, it becomes a titular see,” which are the dioceses assigned to auxiliary bishops.

At the age of 22, Bishop Lonchyna professed his vows as a member of the Studite Monks in Grottaferrata, Italy, in 1976. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1977. He holds a license in biblical theology from the Pontifical Urbanian University and a degree in Eastern liturgical theology from the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome.

After serving as the spiritual director of the major seminary in Lviv, Ukraine, and teaching at the theological academy there, he was consecrated an auxiliary bishop of Lviv in 2002.

A year later, he was appointed apostolic visitor for Ukrainian Catholics in Italy. In 2004, he also was given responsibility for the pastoral care of Ukrainian Catholics in Spain and Ireland.

He moved to London in 2009 as apostolic administrator of the Ukrainian exarchate.

In an interview with the Religious Information Service of Ukraine, Bishop Gudziak said he hoped the new eparchy would contribute to the growth and vitality of the church in Europe.

“After a century of ferocious persecution, Ukrainian Greek Catholics have been dispersed globally by divine providence,” he said, but “not without a spiritual and ecclesial purpose. We hope that in secularized Europe, the children of the martyrs can witness creatively and compellingly to the everlasting truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

According to Vatican statistics, the eparchy serves about 25,000 Ukrainian Catholics, who are ministered to by 16 priests, 5 religious women and a permanent deacon.

Bishop Gudziak graduated from Syracuse University in 1980 and moved to Rome to study at Holy Sofia College and the Pontifical Urbanian University, earning a degree in theology. He studied at Harvard from 1983 to 1992, and then moved to Ukraine, where he was the founding director of the Institute of Church History and coordinator of an oral history project to collect the stories of those who survived and maintained their faith under communist repression of the church.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1998 and was named rector of the Lviv Theological Academy in 2000. The academy grew into the Ukrainian Catholic University in 2002, and he was named rector.

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