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Marriages between Ukrainian Greek Catholics and Ukrainian Orthodox became less controversial, even commonplace, further bonding members of both churches and weakening feelings of prejudice and mistrust. As Greek Catholics and Orthodox attended baptisms, weddings and funerals in each other’s sanctuaries, the distances between them shrank. And as both churches struggled to cope with the pressures of cultural and linguistic assimilation, declining memberships and the rampant materialism and secularization of Canadian society, they worked to foster sympathy and understanding that transcended former rivalries.

By the time the millennium of Ukrainian Christianity was commemorated in 1988, most Orthodox and Greek Catholics felt comfortable worshipping together, even if they still debated the finer points of their histories. Mere tolerance was steadily giving way to mutual respect and support in the face of common difficulties.

The tumultuous changes wrought by Ukraine’s independence have reconfigured the religious landscape for Ukrainian Canadians, the vast majority of whom are now Canadian-born, but nevertheless find themselves buffeted by the complex processes occurring not only in Ukraine but in Rome, Moscow and Constantinople.

Although these should be heady times – thanks to the rebirth of a distinctive Ukrainian spirituality – the unsettled religious differences in the ancestral homeland, coupled with the accelerating tide of de-ethnicization in Canada, have raised troubling questions about the destiny of Ukrainian Canadians, who cling to both the Byzantine and the national inheritance received from their ancestors.

Today’s Ukrainian Orthodox and Greek Catholic believers in Canada not only find themselves at the forefront of a revitalized dialogue taking place between East and West, but they also stand at a juncture: they must decide whether or not they can survive as Ukrainian Christians in 21st-century Canada.

It is a pivotal moment for Ukrainian Christians, one fraught with unease and the potential for the reopening of old wounds by the confessional disputes currently raging in Ukraine. However, the same circumstances are ripe with the promise that if unity were attained in the ancestral homeland, it could have a reinvigorating effect on those Ukrainian Canadians who have remained stalwart guardians of their traditional churches.

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Jars Balan is a lay member in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada with a special interest in Ukrainian church history.



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