Ukraine's Eastern-rite cardinal has written his Latin-rite counterpart in an effort to resolve what church sources say is the first intra-Catholic dispute over a church building.
Cardinal Lubomyr Husar of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, an Eastern rite, wrote Latin-rite Cardinal Marian Jaworski of Lviv, Ukraine, after Latin Catholics claimed they were kicked out of a church by Eastern Catholics.
"Greek (Eastern) Catholics are only conducting their services temporarily in this church," Cardinal Husar said in a letter to Cardinal Jaworski. "I will ensure understanding between nations, especially when they belong to the same universal church, is not just an empty slogan, but a genuine reality."
Most of Lviv's Latin Catholics are of Polish descent.
Extracts from Cardinal Husar's letter were published July 19 by Poland's Catholic information agency, KAI, which also published a July 7 letter from Cardinal Jaworski to Cardinal Husar complaining about the alleged seizure of the Mother of God and Lord's Presentation Church in Lviv.
Cardinal Jaworski said Eastern Catholics had "offended the religious and national feelings" of Latin Catholics by barring them from the building.
"There's no Greek (Eastern) Catholic parish at this church -- just a small group of faithful and two priests who are causing the conflicts," Cardinal Jaworski told Cardinal Husar in the letter.
"If further disputes are to be avoided, Greek Catholics should now give the church up to Latin-rite faithful."
Auxiliary Bishop Marian Buczek, who works with Cardinal Jaworkski in Lviv, told Catholic News Service July 13 that Latin-rite Catholics had been barred from the church in early July, when Ukrainian Catholics suddenly replaced the altar with an iconostasis, which is a partition or screen, decorated with icons, that separates the sanctuary from the rest of the church.
He added that Ukrainian Catholics already used four other local Latin-rite churches, which his own church was unable to maintain.
"As in any family, our relations with Greek Catholics are usually manageable. But someone clearly wants to set Catholics apart by provoking this scandal and stirring up conflicts between us. They don't need this (church), and few Greek Catholics even want to pray in it," Bishop Buczek said.
The 17th-century baroque church, serving Lviv's Catholic seminary, was used as an exhibition hall under Soviet rule and was given to Eastern-rite Catholics by the regional government after Ukraine's 1991 independence.
In December 2002, after a 10-year campaign, Latin-rite Catholics were allowed to begin celebrating Masses in the church.
Ukraine's Latin-rite Catholic Church has 870 parishes, compared to the 3,386 parishes of the larger Ukrainian Catholic Church.
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