Bienheureux Basile VELYCHKOVSKY
Nom: VELYCHKOVSKY (VELYCOVSKYJ)
Prénom: Basile (Vasyl)
Nom de religion: Basile (Vasyl)
Naissance: 01.06.1903 à Stanislaviv (actuellement Ivano-Frankivsk)
Mort: 30.06.1973 à Winnipeg (Canada)
Note: Rédemptoriste et prêtre en 1925. Professeur et missionnaire à Volyn. Higoumène à Ternopil. Emprisonné à Kiev de 1945 à 1955. Ordonné secrètement évêque en 1963. Emprisonné une seconde fois en 1969, il est autorisé à se rendre à Rome, puis à Winnipeg au Canada où il meurt le 30 juin 1973.
Béatification: 27.06.2001 à Lviv (Ukraine) par Jean Paul II
Fête: 27 juin
Réf. dans l’Osservatore Romano: 2001 n.26 p.1-5 - n.27 p.9-10 - n.28 p.12 - n.29 p.2.5
Réf. dans la Documentation Catholique: 2001 n.15 p.747-749
Vasyl (Basile) Velycovskyj (Velychkovsky) naît le 1er juin 1903 à Stanislaviv (aujourd'hui Ivano-Frankivsk). En 1920, il entre au séminaire grec-catholique de Lviv. Il fait ses premiers vœux de religieux Rédemptoriste à Holosko près de Lviv en 1925 et est ordonné prêtre le 9 octobre 1925. Frère Basile est professeur et missionnaire à Volyn. En 1942, il devient higoumène (Prieur) de son monastère de Ternopil. C'est là qu'il est arrêté en 1945 et emmené à Kiev. Sa peine de mort est commuée en 10 années de travaux forcés. Il retourne à Lviv en 1955. En 1963, il est ordonné secrètement archevêque à Moscou. En 1969, il est emprisonné pour la seconde fois et condamné à une peine de 3 ans. Ce confesseur de la foi, déjà proche de la mort est relâché et autorisé à se rendre à Rome, puis à Winnipeg au Canada où il meurt moins d'un an plus tard, le 30 juin 1973.
VASYL’ VSEVOLOD VELYCHKOVS’KYI
Évêque, Martyr, Bienheureux
Il y a plusieurs graphies possibles pour cet évêque martyr, selon la manière dont on transcrit l’alphabet cyrillique : Vasyl Velyckovskyj ou Basil Velychkovsky.
Né le 1juin 1903 à Stanislaviv (l’actuelle Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine), de Volodymyr Velychkovskyi et Anne Theodorovych, catéchistes, qui avaient dans leurs deux familles une longue tradition de prêtres. Vasyl eut tôt le désir de sauver les âmes et pour cela, de devenir prêtre.
Après le lycée de Horodentsi, avec la fougue patriotique de ses quinze ans, il entra dans l’armée qui se battait pour la liberté de la mère patrie, durant la Première guerre mondiale, puis il entra au séminaire de Lviv en 1920.
Ordonné diacre en 1924, il commença alors son noviciat dans la Congrégation du Très Saint Rédempteur à Holosko près de Lviv, et fit sa première profession en août 1925. Ayant déjà fait ses études sacerdotales au séminaire, il fut ordonné dès la fin du noviciat par l’évêque Joseph Botsian à la prêtrise.
Ses supérieurs avaient tout de suite remarqué son talent de missionnaire, de sorte que, après deux années d’enseignement au juvénat de Volyn, on l’envoya avec d’autres confrères pour des missions à Stanislaviv.
En 1928, il arriva au monastère de Kovel et, de là, développa beaucoup de missions en terre de Galicie, cherchant à regagner toutes ces populations qui étaient passées à l’Église Orthodoxe Russe. Il créa maintes églises et chapelles.
Revenu à Stanislaviv en 1935, il y fut supérieur, tout en continuant son activité missionnaire, même quand le gouvernement commença à persécuter l’Église Gréco-Catholique en 1939.
En 1940, par exemple, il organisa une procession à travers les rues de Stanislaviv, où participèrent quelque vingt-mille personnes.
Sans se soucier de la menace de la police soviétique, il se rendit en Ukraine centrale, pour travailler avec les Ukrainiens orthodoxes de Kamianets-Podilskyi : cependant, les allemands récemment arrivés sur place craignirent que l’activité du père Vasyl eût des rapports avec la résistance ukrainienne, et le prièrent de quitter la ville dans les vingt-quatre heures.
Le père Vasyl fut alors nommé prieur du monastère de Ternopil en 1942.
Les Soviétiques reprirent la Galicie en 1945. Dans la seule nuit du 10 au 11 avril, ils arrêtèrent toute la hiérarchie de l’Église Gréco-catholique.
Arrêté pour propagande antisoviétique à Ternopil le 26 juillet 1945, le père Vasyl reçut la proposition d’être libéré s’il se rattachait à l’Église Orthodoxe russe. Sa réponse fut courte et claire : Jamais !
Envoyé à la prison de Kiev, il y attendit deux années avant d’être condamné à mort, pour avoir en 1939 qualifié l’armée soviétique de horde rouge et de troupe rouge.
Les mois qui suivirent sa condamnation, le père Vasyl continua son apostolat auprès des prisonniers.
Un beau jour, on lui annonça que sa peine était commuée à 10 ans de travaux forcés. Le père Vasyl passa d’abord deux ans dans la région de Kirovsk, puis fut transféré aux mines de Vorkuta, au-dessus du cercle arctique. Là il s’occupa des autres prisonniers. Ceux-ci s’arrangèrent pour le faire travailler seulement dans l’hôpital, plutôt que dans les mines, de sorte qu’il put célébrer la Messe, même en cachette, presque tous les jours.
En 1955, à la fin de sa peine, il put retourner à Lviv. Il n’y avait plus d’église pour célébrer. Sans se décourager, il se construisit un petit autel dans un appartement, où il recevait des fidèles par petits groupes.
En 1959, il fut nommé évêque de l’Église gréco-catholique ukrainienne «clandestine», mais ne put être consacré qu’en 1963, par le Métropolite Slipyj à Moscou.
Le missionnaire était infatigable et intrépide. Il rédigea un ouvrage sur Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours, où il démontrait que les athées ne peuvent pas être de bons citoyens ; en plus, il écoutait Radio Vatican.
Tous ces graves délits le conduisirent, en 1969, à une nouvelle arrestation, qui dura cette fois-ci trois ans, à Kommunarsk (Donbass), où, entre des séances de tortures, il assista encore d’autres prisonniers.
Il fut remis en liberté en 1972, lorsque son état de santé déclina. On dit qu’avant de le libérer, on lui injecta une substance inconnue.
Il vint d’abord en Yougoslavie, où il retrouva sa sœur à Zagreb.
Il se rendit alors à Rome, où il rencontra le patriarche Slipyi et le pape Paul VI, puis à Winnipeg (Canada), où il mourut le 30 juin 1973.
Vasyl Velyckovskyj a été béatifié le 27 juin 2001.
On donne parfois pour date de sa mort le 30 juillet.
Bienheureux Vasyl Velychkovsky, CSsR
Né en 1903 à Stanislaviv, en Galicie (aujourd’hui l’Ukraine occidentale), de parents pieux (son père était prêtre), à 15 ans Vasyl s’enrôle dans l’armée afin de combattre pour l’indépendance de l’Ukraine pendant la première guerre mondiale. En 1920 il entre au séminaire de Lviv et est ordonné diacre. Il rejoint ensuite les Rédemptoristes et devient missionnaire. En aout 1925 il prononce ses voeux et, en octobre, il est ordonné prêtre. Il enseigne, dirige des missions et devient prieur du monastère de Stanislaviv.
Après l’occupation de l’Ukraine occidentale par les Soviétiques en 1939, il continue son oeuvre apostolique et, en 1941, il se rend dans le centre de l’Ukraine. Ses activités, toutefois, éveillent les soupçons des Allemands et, à peine trois jours après son arrivée, il reçoit l’ordre de partir. Les Soviétiques occupent à nouveau la Galicie en 1945 et le 7 aout le Père Vasyl est arrêté « pour propagande antisoviétique » et transféré à la prison de Kiev. Il est condamné à être fusillé et pendant trois mois, comme condamné à mort, il enseigne aux prisonniers, les instruit des vérités de la foi chrétienne et les prépare à recevoir les sacrements. Finalement sa peine est commuée en une peine de 10 ans d’emprisonnement dans les mines de charbon du nord de la Russie, où il continue de célébrer la Divine Liturgie presque chaque jour, utilisant comme vases sacrés tout ce qu’il trouve.
De retour à Lviv, après sa libération en 1955, il poursuit son apostolat dans la clandestinité et en 1959 il est nommé évêque. Ordonné en 1963 dans une chambre d’hôtel de Moscou par le métropolite Josyf Slipyj, qui vient d’être libéré de prison et est en route vers le Concile Vatican II, il est constitué son vicaire en son absence. En 1969 il est condamné à trois ans de séjour dans un hôpital psychiatrique où il est torturé et drogué. Une fois libéré, il est exilé de l’Ukraine. Il passe quelques temps en Yougoslavie, puis à Rome et finalement, à l’invitation de l’archevêque ukrainien de Winnipeg, arrive au Canada. Ici il donne des retraites au clergé jusqu’au jour de sa mort, le 30 juin 1973. Il est béatifié par le pape Jean-Paul II en 2001 avec d’autres martyrs grecs-catholiques ukrainiens.
LIEN : http://archeparchy.ca
LA VIE ET LA SPIRITUALITÉ DU BIENHEUREUX BASILE VELYCHKOVSKY
Le 27 juin, l'Église au Canada célèbre la vie et le témoignage du bienheureux Basile (Vasyl) Velychkovsky.
Né en 1903 à Stanyslaviv (aujourd'hui Ivano-Frankivsk) en Galicie orientale, aujourd'hui l'Ukraine occidentale, Mgr Velychkovsky est ordonné prêtre en octobre 1925 par l'évêque de Lutsk, Mgr Josyf Botsian.
En 1959, le Siège apostolique nomme le Père Velychkovsky évêque de l'Église grecque-catholique ukrainienne clandestine. Il est ordonné évêque en 1963 dans une chambre d'hôtel de Moscou par le métropolite Josyf Slipyj, qui vient d'être libéré de prison et est en route vers le Concile Vatican II.
Le métropolite Slipyj le constitue locum tenens, personne responsable de l'Église grecque-catholique ukrainienne clandestine d'Ukraine en son absence. Mgr Velychkovsky travaille à renforcer l'Église clandestine.
En 1969, il est appréhendé après avoir écrit un livre sur Notre Dame du Perpétuel Secours.
À l'invitation de l'archevêque ukrainien catholique de Winnipeg, le métropolite Maxim Hermaniuk, également Rédemptoriste, Mgr Velychkovsky vient vivre au Canada.
Il donne des retraites au clergé, mais sa visite à la diaspora ukrainienne du Canada ne dure pas longtemps.
Le 30 juin 1973, Mgr Velychkovsky décède à l'âge de 70 ans à Winnipeg, où il est enterré. Ses reliques, un corps parfaitement intact, sont maintenant enchâssées dans l'église ukrainienne catholique Saint Joseph's, à Winnipeg.
La présentation sur sa vie et sa spiritualité s'inscrit dans le cadre d'une initiative de la Conférence des évêques catholiques du Canada (CECC) pour célébrer l'Année de la vie consacrée.
L'Office pour l'évangélisation et la catéchèse du Secteur anglais de la CECC a également préparé des ressources catéchétiques (en anglais seulement) sur la vie et la spiritualité du bienheureux Basile Velychkovsky.
Lien à un dépliant sur le sanctuaire (PDF en anglais seulement)
- Basil Velychkovsky
- Vasyl Velyckovskyj
- Vasyl Velychkovsky
Son of catechists Volodymyr and Anne Theodorowych Velychkovsky. Greek Catholic. Entered the seminary in Lviv, Ukraine in 1920. Ordained on 9 October 1925. Teacher and missionary in the Volyn region of Ukraine. Prior of the monastery at Ternopil, Ukraine in 1942. Arrested for his faith at Ternopil in 1945, condemned to death, and sent to Kiev, Ukraine where his sentence was changed to ten years in a forced labour camp. There he ministered to other prisoners.
His sentence served, he returned to Lviv in 1955. Bishop of the “clandestine” Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. Archbishop in 1963. Arrested again for his faith, and for listening to Vatican Radio, in 1969. Sentenced to three years in the camps, where, between torture sessions, he ministered to other prisoners. When his health failed, he was released. Travelled to Rome, Italy and then to Winnipeg, Canada. Confessor of the faith.
- 30 June 1973 at Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada of natural causes
- buried in Winnepeg
- relics now enshrined in Saint Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg
BLESSED VASYL VELYCHKOVSKY,C.Ss.R. BISHOP and MARTYR
The twentieth century is known as a century of martyrs. Millions of people gave up their lives for Christ. In the Soviet Union under the atheistic regime many Christians, especially Ukrainian Catholics laid down their lives rather than deny Jesus Christ and His Church.
Honoring this sacrifice, Pope John Paul II beatified a number of martyrs for the Ukrainian Catholic Church on June 27, 2001. Among the martyrs was Nicholas Charnetsky and his twenty-four Companions. They all shared their martyrdom under the Soviet regime, mostly during and after the Second World War. Among the Companions was the Redemptorist Bishop, Vasyl Velychkovsky.
Blessed Vasyl was born into a priestly family in Stanislaviv, now called Ivano-Frankivsk, on June 1, 1903. His father was an assistant at the Cathedral where Vasyl was baptized. His family soon moved to the village of Shuparka near Borshchiv. Here Vasyl was raised and educated, mainly by home schooling. The First World War interrupted his studies.
In 1911 during a mission at his grandfather’s church in Probizhnia, young Vasyl was dedicated to the Mother of God. Throughout his life he referred to this event as pivotal, since he always sensed himself under the protection of her loving care. After becoming a Redemptorist, he promoted devotion to our Mother of Perpetual Help with every mission he conducted. The rosary for him was a pillar of strength throughout his imprisonment.
After the War Blessed Vasyl completed his high school and entered the Major Seminary in Lviv. After being ordained a deacon by Metropolitan Andrij Sheptytsky, Blessed Vasyl entered the Redemptorist novitiate in Holosko in 1924. On October 9, 1925 he was ordained in the chapel in Zboisk to the priesthood by Bishop Josyf Botsian. The following two years he taught at the minor seminary, but his heart was in preaching missions. Recognizing his gift of preaching, he was soon assigned to the missions, first in Stanislaviv and in 1928 to Volyn.
In Volyn he worked out of Kovel among the Orthodox faithful, who wished to join the Catholic Church, and among Ukrainian Catholic immigrants from Halychyna. Here he had much success. His sensitivity to the ways of the eastern Orthodox made him dearly loved by the people. Unfortunately, political strife between the Poles and the Ukrainians caused him to leave Volyn in 1935.
He returned to Stanislaviv where with other Redemptorists he continued his parish missions. He went from village to village preaching a two week long Redemptorist Mission. He preached to hundreds of thousands of faithful.
When the Second World War began and the Soviets first occupied Western Ukraine, Blessed Vasyl was in Stanislaviv serving in a thriving Redemptorist mission church. His heart went out, especially to the poor country folk that came to the city to earn a living. In 1940, on the feast of our Mother of Perpetual Help , while the city was occupied by the Soviets, Blessed Vasyl dared to have a procession of 20,000 people through the streets of Stanislaviv. After the procession he was arrested. Fearing the people who were ready to shed their blood for him , the Soviets released Father Vasyl.
Since he had experience working with the Orthodox, he was sent by Metropolitan Sheptytsky to Kamianets Podilsk in Greater Ukraine in 1941. At that time the city was under German occupation. There, as in Volyn, he experienced a great spiritual revival. However he was forced to leave as his life was threatened by the German army.
In 1944, Blessed Vasyl volunteered to go to Ternopil even though the Soviet front had already arrived. Amidst the shelling of the city, he did his pastoral work courageously and boldly.
In the spring of 1945 the Soviets sought to arrest him, but he eluded them by going from village to village giving missions. Finally on August 7, 1945, the Soviets came to the monastery in Ternopil and arrested him. He was given a chance to deny his faith, leave the Catholic Church and serve as a Russian Orthodox priest. He quickly responded with “No, Never.” Even though he was offered freedom and life if he would accept their proposal, he responded with “you can shoot me and kill me but you will not get any other answer.”
After one year of interrogations and tortures in the KGB prison in Kiev, he was finally sentenced on June 26, 1946 to die by firing squad. He was on death row for three months. While in the cell with others on death row, he catechized them and prepared them through the sacraments for their coming death. When his name was called, he left the cell ready to die for Christ, but at that moment, his death sentence was commuted to ten years in Soviet labour camps.
He spent most of his years working in the coal mines of the Vorkuta region above the Arctic Circle. Accused of inciting a strike among the prisoners in the fall of 1953, he was transferred to a most severe prison in Vladimir, near Moscow. After protesting his innocence, he was sent back to Vorkuta.
When his prison sentence was completed, he was sent to Lviv. He became instrumental in organizing the underground church. Some called him the Father of the Underground Church. His apartment became the centre of church activity: Divine Liturgies, administering the sacraments, catechesis, preparing seminarians, counseling and the like. He also began to organize religious sisters, even though the monasteries were official closed, and taught them a new way of living out their monastic and religious life. Many a vocation was fostered by Father Vasyl’s guidance and care. In 1959 Rome appointed Fr. Vasyl to be bishop of this underground church. Unfortunately there were no bishops in Ukraine who could ordain him.
In 1963, Metropolitan Josyf Slipyj was released from 18 years of Soviet labour camps to attend the Second Vatican Council in Rome. While in Moscow, he called Fr. Vasyl to come immediately to his hotel room in Hotel Moskwa. When Fr. Vasyl arrived, Metropolitan Josyf began the Rite of Ordination to the episcopacy. The secret ordination finished and Metropolitan Josyf was taken to Rome. Bishop Vasyl returned to Lviv to do his episcopal work.
On January 27 of 1969, Bishop Vasyl was again arrested. He was accused of anti-Soviet agitation in a book he wrote on The Icon of the Mother of perpetual Help, for listening to Vatican radio and for baptizing people. He was sentenced to a three year prison term in Komunarsk in Eastern Ukraine. There he underwent chemical, physical and mental torture. The Soviets attempted to extract information from him about the underground church but were unsuccessful. Near death in 1972, he was released from prison and was exiled from Ukraine.
Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk invited Bishop Vasyl to come to Winnipeg, Canada in June, 1972. Overcome by the tortures and death causing drugs he received while in prison, he died a martyr’s death on June 30, 1973. After the funeral services in Sts. Vladimir and Olha Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, he was buried on July 5 in All Saints Cemetery near Winnipeg.
After Blessed Vasyl was beatified by Pope John Paul II, preparations began for the exhumation and enshrinement of his holy relics. His holy body was exhumed on September 16, 2002. Following Vatican protocol, it was examined by a team of doctors and church personnel. His holy body was found to be fully intact with all its muscle mass. His holy body was revested with new vestments and placed in a stainless steel sarcophagus. On September 22, 2002, his holy relics were enshrined in a chapel in St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Pilgrims come and pray before Blessed Vasyl , seeking his powerful intercession.
On July 20, 2014 during the All-Ukraine Pilgrimage to Zarvanytsia, Ukraine, Patriarch Sviatoslav solemnly proclaimed Blessed Vasyl to be the Patron of Prison Ministry for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
SOURCE : http://www.bvmartyrshrine.com/his-life/
Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky proclaimed Patron of Prison MInistry
June 22, 2015
On July 19, 2014 in Zarvanytsia Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky was proclaimed Patron of Prison Ministry. This is a TV report of the event.
On July 20, 2014 before a crowd of 200,000 people during the All-Ukraine Pilgrimage to Zarvanytsia, Ukraine, Patriarch Sviatoslav solemnly proclaimed Blessed Vasyl as the Patron of Prison Ministry for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. This proclamation was made at the Pontifical Divine Liturgy at this Marian Shrine during the “Little Entrance”. The Decree was read by Bishop Bohdan Dzurah.
Blessed Vasyl was chosen by the Synod of the UGCC as Patron of Prison Ministry because of the example of ministry that he gave while he was imprisoned on death row and later in the labor camps in Vorkuta , the place of Russian coal mines above the Arctic Circle.
Blessed Vasyl was chosen by the Synod of the UGCC as Patron of Prison Ministry because of the example of ministry that he gave while he was imprisoned on death row and later in the labor camps in Vorkuta , the place of Russian coal mines above the Arctic Circle.
On June 27, Catholic Church in Canada celebrates the life and witness of Blessed Vasyl Vsevolod Velychkovsky. Born in 1903 in Stanyslaviv (now Ivano-Frankivsk), in Eastern Galicia, today's Western Ukraine. In 1920 he entered the seminary in Lviv. In 1925 he took his first religious vows in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and was ordained a priest by the Most Reverend Josyf Botsian, Bishop of Lutsk. As a priest-monk Vasyl Velychkovsky taught and preached in Volyn. In 1942 he became hegumen of the monastery in Ternopil. Because of religious persecution by the Soviet Government he was arrested and sent to Kyiv. The death penalty was changed to 10 years of hard labor.
In 1959, the Apostolic See appointed Father Velychkovsky a Bishop of the underground Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. He was ordained a Bishop in 1963 in a Moscow hotel room by Metropolitan Josyf Slipyj, who had just been released from prison and was on his way to the Second Vatican Council. Metropolitan Slipyj made him the locum tenens, the person in charge of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Ukraine during his absence. Bishop Velychkovsky worked to strengthen the underground Church. In 1969, he was arrested after writing a book on Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Three years later, he was deported out of the Soviet Union. Following the invitation of the Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop of Winnipeg, Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk, who was also a Redemptorist, Bishop Velychkovsky came to live in Canada. Stricken with a heart disease stemming from his imprisonment, he told a Canadian audience, "The prisons and camps ruined my health and my strength, but this was my fate; the Lord God placed this cross on my shoulders." He gave retreats to clergy, but his visit among the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada did not last long. On June 30, 1973, Bishop Velychkovsky died at the age of 70 in Winnipeg, where he was buried. Thirty years after his death, Vasyl Velychkovsky's body was found to be almost incorrupt, his toes had fallen off and were subsequently divided to be used as holy relics. Beatified in 2001, the intact remains of Blessed Bishop and Martyr Vasyl Velychkovsky are enshrined at St. Joseph's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
BL VASYL VELYCHKOVSKY, CSSR, MARTYR FOR CHRIST...
This article first appeared in THE PRAIRIE MESSENGER and was written by BRENT KOSTYNIUK who lives in Edmonton, has a bachelor of theology from Newman and is a freelance writer. He and his wife Bev have been married for 36 years and have eight grandchildren.
When I was in Grade 3, our teacher asked the class what we would do if someone came into the room and threatened to shoot anyone who was Christian. It was an incredibly scary prospect back then and it still is today. Yet there are brave and faithful people who resist any temptation to deny their faith and face martyrdom instead. Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky did exactly that.
Vasyl Velychkovsky was born in 1903 into a priestly family in Western Ukraine. His father was a priest, as were both his grandfathers. After serving as a rifleman in the First World War, Vasyl entered the Major Seminary in Lviv, Ukraine. During his diaconal year, in 1924, he joined the Redemptorist Congregation. He was ordained to the priesthood on Oct. 9, 1925, in Stanislaviv. Early on, his gift of preaching was recognized and he was assigned to give parish missions in the Volyn region.
During this period, the region was under Polish control and there was strong pressure for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to become polonized. Father Vasyl refused to do this. Instead, he strived to unite the faithful under Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky. Because of this, he was forced to leave Volyn in 1935. He returned to Stanislaviv where he spent the next several years giving traditional Redemptorist two-week-long missions. In June 1940, with the Soviets occupying Western Ukraine, Father Vasyl led a procession of some 20,000 people through the streets of Stanislaviv on the occasion of the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
Several days later, Father Vasyl was arrested for alleged anti-Soviet activity. For the first, but not the last, time, Father Vasyl was tortured. After a day the police released him fearing growing protests mainly from women and children who had taken part in the procession. Father Vasyl continued to preach to Ukrainian Catholic faithful throughout the war. However, in 1945, with the war coming to a close, the Soviets renewed their oppression of the Catholic Church. On April 10 many of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops and clergy were arrested. Father Vasyl managed to continue to give missions in small villages but was finally arrested on August 7, 1945, at the monastery in Ternopil. He was given the opportunity to join the Russian Orthodox Church and be released. Father Vasyl refused. With an authoritative voice he replied: “No, never! Under any circumstances . . . I have said NO once and for all; and you can shoot me, and kill me, but you shall get from me no other word.”
Over the next 10 months Father Vasyl was tortured until he confessed to crimes he never committed. He was interrogated 11 times. Usually these were conducted at night and lasted up to 12 hours. Sleeplessness, isolation, food deprivation, physical and moral abuse helped to breakdown his willpower until he finally confessed to anti-Soviet activity.
His trial was held on June 26, 1946. Without representation or witnesses, he was quickly found guilty and sentenced to execution by firing squad. He spent the next three months on death row, but even there preached, heard confessions and help prepare fellow prisoners for death. One day his name was called. He left his cell ready to give up his life for his beliefs. However, his sentence was changed to 10 years of hard labour in the Soviet laager camps, working under the worst possible conditions. During this time Father Vasyl heard confessions, preached and even celebrated the divine liturgy daily, using a large tablespoon as his chalice and wine made from raisins.
In July 1955 Father Vasyl was released and sent to Lviv. By this time it was illegal to openly practice the Ukrainian Greek Catholic faith. For the next 36 years, until the fall of the Soviet Union, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church survived underground. Father Vasyl’s apartment became a centre of religious activity as he organized a secret church. A cabinet became an altar, an ordinary wooden jewelry box a tabernacle and a plastic flowered lamp the eternal flame. Working clandestinely, he gave retreats in homes. More importantly, he accepted apostate priests who had signed with the Russian Orthodox Church. They were required to confess the symbol of faith and receive a penance for their action.
In 1959 the Vatican appointed Rev. Vasyl Velychkovsky to the episcopacy. Unfortunately, there were no bishops in Ukraine who could consecrate him. Thus, he was eventually forced to travel to Moscow. On Feb. 4, 1963, he was secretly consecrated by Metropolitan Josyf Slipyj in a hotel room. During this period, secret seminaries were organized in Lviv and Ternopil. Text books for philosophy and theology were copied by hand. Seminarians did not know each other and even family members rarely knew about their sons’ vocations. Only the bishop was aware of all the priests. Looking into an uncertain future, Bishop Vasyl consecrated fellow Redemptorist Father Volodymyr Sterniuk to the episcopacy on July 2, 1964. Bishop Volodymyr’s identity was kept secret. He was not to function as a bishop until such time as Bishop Vasyl was either exiled or died. It would prove to be a prophetic action.
In 1968, a new wave of persecutions began as the Soviet government sought to eliminate the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church once and for all. Fearing arrest, Bishop Vasyl consecrated four more bishops who would remain secret and not function unless absolutely necessary.
Many priests were discovered and arrested. Then, on Jan. 27, 1969, Bishop Vasyl was arrested. He was taken to a prison in Lviv where he remained for the eight months prior to his trial. Once again, he was interrogated numerous times in order to make a solid case for his trial. His health deteriorated and at one point he was declared clinically dead.
Bishop Vasyl’s trial took place in Lviv on Sept. 23, 1969. The charge was “since he was an adherent of the Greek Catholic Church, he systematically and knowingly spread verbally and in written form false information about the Soviet communist government.” Inevitably he was found guilty and sentenced to three years’ incarceration in a hard labour correctional institution of strict regime. The sentence was served in Komunarsk in a prison hospital for the psychologically ill. In fact, he was gravely ill. Years in the laager camps had taken their toll. Several toes had frozen off and now his feet became so swollen that he was unable to walk. He recovered from this only to be subjected to an insidious form of torture. He was injected with drugs, which systematically caused heart disease and destruction of the nervous system. He was also tortured with electric shocks. On his release in early 1972, those who saw him said he wasn’t a person, only a skeleton.
Their work of destroying Bishop Vasyl done, the Soviet authorities now wanted to be rid of him. He was sent to visit his sister Vera in Zagreb. However, his passport did not allow his return to Ukraine. Unknowingly, he had been exiled. After two weeks in Zagreb, on Feb. 22, 1972, Bishop Vasyl travelled to Rome on the invitation of Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, himself living in exile. Here Bishop Vasyl had an audience with Pope Paul VI.
While in Rome, Bishop Vasyl received an invitation from Metropolitan Maxim Hermaniuk to come and live in Winnipeg. Taking up the offer, he arrived in Canada on June 15, 1972. Here in spite of the damage done to him during his second incarceration, Bishop Vasyl visited all five Ukrainian Catholic eparchies in Canada and even summoned enough strength to give priests’ retreats. However, death was inevitable. On June 30, 1973, Bishop Vasyl died a martyr’s death.
On June 27, 2001, Bishop Vasyl was beatified by Saint Pope John Paul II in a ceremony in Lviv. Then, in September 2002, Bishop Vasyl’s body was transferred to a shrine built in St. Joseph’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg. Upon exhumation, it was found that his body remained fully intact, considered a sign of sainthood.
Today, the Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky Shrine is visited by thousands of pilgrims annually, with many denominations represented. His story is a source of inspiration and his relics have become a source of healing. Moreover, in no small measure, Bishop Vasyl’s faith, enthusiasm and courage ensured the life of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in her homeland during a time of fierce persecution. May his memory be eternal.