Major Archeparch or Patriarch?
The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches. It was the first among the Orthodox to assert continued communion with Rome. Our faithful surround the globe, from Argentina to Canada, to Germany and beyond. Unlike seven of the Catholic Churches, one thing we do not have, though, is a patriarch. At least, not on paper.
In 1963, it was obvious that our church was of a patriarchal status. Recognizing that would create ecumenical difficulties with the Orthodox, so a new title was devised. The Ukrainian Church was raised to a Major Archepiscopacy and our leader titled the Major Archeparch, which was the fancy way they came up with at the time to say he’s a patriarch without the title.
Canon 152 of our code of canon law makes it clear that the two are pretty much identical: “What is stated in common law concerning patriarchal Churches or patriarchs is understood to be applicable to major archiepiscopal Churches or major archbishops, unless the common law expressly provides otherwise or it is evident from the nature of the matter.”
The entire Catholic communion recognized the need for the Ukrainian patriarchate and it was discussed in Vatican II. In his 1964 Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite Orientalium Ecclesiarum, Pope Paul VI said, “Seeing that the patriarchal office in the Eastern Church is a traditional form of government, the Sacred Ecumenical Council ardently desires that new patriarchates should be erected where there is need, to be established either by an ecumenical council or by the Roman Pontiff.”
Nearly 50 years later, the world knows the leader of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church as a patriarch, and he is commemorated in the Liturgy as such, but the papers have yet to be changed. You can read below what His Beatitude Sviatoslav, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, had to say about that on July 4, 2011 in an interview with Mariana Karapinka and Anatolii Babynskyi.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk):
“I Will Continue to Build the Patriarchate”
Religious Information Service of Ukraine
Kyiv, July 4, 2011
What initiatives started by your predecessors for building the patriarchal order will be continued, and what do you want to start yourself? And what have been your first steps, and what others will there be? What is important to start and continue?
My first steps were made many years ago, before I was elected head of the church. In 2004-2005, Patriarch Lubomyr asked me to be his personal secretary and head of the Patriarchal Curia in Lviv. This is what the position was called at the time. Actually, my direct task as head of the curia was to make it the sole center of our church, which would serve to unite all our eparchies, which are scattered throughout the world. The Patriarchal Curia is a very important step in the development of the patriarchate. I have said repeatedly that His Beatitude Lubomyr did not demand a patriarchate, but he built it. Then I was called to cooperate with him on this matter.
To date, our patriarchal structures are still being built. During those 10 years of building our church under the leadership of His Beatitude Lubomyr our entire church, all of our bishops, realized that such a center is necessary. Moreover, they began to support it and now the center is more efficient and serving our bishops all around the world. I felt it as a bishop in Argentina. I felt just how important the structure of the Patriarchal Curia is for maintaining a connection with the mother church in Ukraine.
Thus I will continue to build the patriarchate. This includes the following specific steps: building the Patriarchal Curia, improving its efficiency, preparing cadres who could effectively serve in our structures, improving our service to our eparchies and similarly to each of our believers. We know that because of immigration Ukrainians are scattered throughout the world. We will know that we have a patriarchate when each Greek Catholic, wherever he may be on earth, feels that he has a father in Ukraine, who is the head of our church. My development of the patriarchate will move primarily in the pastoral and evangelistic directions so that church could effectively act as one single unit and provide pastoral care for our faithful, wherever they may be.
When you first went to Rome many people wondered about the patriarchate and whether you would raise this issue during your meeting with the Holy Father. This time it did not happen. Is there a plan when this will be discussed? Not to demand it, but to express our desire. The question is what does the Holy Father think about this?
Discussion about the patriarchate is always on the agenda. It is not a media sensation because it is simply the life of our church. We act as the Patriarchal Church and we are developing as the Patriarchal Church. One of the very important steps of this, maybe, everyday life but our practical communication and development is, for example, the recent proclamation of the Catechism of the church. This is the highest act of the church’s religious teaching when the church gives the Catechism, a collection of religious, as well as moral and ascetic, teachings of the church to the hands of the faithful. And of course we did this with the understanding and even support of the Apostolic See.
We often hear such comments from our priests and the faithful: “But why?” Isn’t it enough to be a major archiepiscopal church? Have we fully used the potential found in this form of organization? Many people ask what these excessive efforts are for.
There are several dimensions of this issue. A patriarchate can be understood as an honorary title. There are many such honorary patriarchs in the Catholic Church, like the Patriarch of Venice, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and so on. This is an honorary title, but it has no foundation for a national church. In our case, it is the opposite: we have a foundation for a national church but no title. I think this title will come sooner or later, though the mechanism for granting the title of patriarch in the Orthodox world as well as in the Catholic world is not fully understood.
I agree that while heading toward patriarchal dignity we must use all the opportunities that are provided by our status of a major archiepiscopal church. In fact, the difference between a patriarchal and archiepiscopal church is very small, and perhaps at this stage we need to use these potentials we have to the fullest.
But, on the other hand, it is no secret that the title “archiepiscopal church” is a half-step. And the entire meaning of this title is not clear. So if to look at how I am called in the media, then the word “supreme” is not often used, rather they say the Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, because there is no understanding of it. Second, such a title does not exist in the Eastern Churches of the Slavic tradition. This title exists in the Greek Church, which has a different canonical structure, so the title has another meaning. If we use the Greek Church as an example, there is an Archbishop of Athens, who is helped by a lot of metropolitans. In Slavic canonical lexicon, these terms have completely different connotations, and therefore, who the Supreme Archbishop is for the Slavic world is not quite clear.
We still must strive to take this path to the end, and then obtain the name of the Patriarchal Church; then our identity will be clear to all. Patriarch Josyf said that we must strive for a Patriarchal Church so that our communities, our parishes, eparchies in emigration don’t assimilate. So, the patriarchate is a structure that to a certain extent will protect our church from dissolving into the huge sea of ??the Catholic world. All our bishops across the world are part of the local Latin episcopal conferences. And if we do not have an internal forum, then we can not exist as a single national church.
By the way, before our church received the title of Major Archbishopric, it had no right to conduct synods. And now the synod is one of the most significant components of the identity of our church. We are a synodal church. The title Major Archiepiscopal Church has given us this opportunity. We can see that it really helps us in our building.