Thursday, 2 July 2009

Liturgy of Blessed Nicholas Charnetsky in Liverpool

Mr Matthew Alderman, the Sacred Architecture correspondent on The New Liturgical Movement reported the existence of a film clip of a Byzantine Liturgy in Liverpool. This little clip, which has been put up by "British Pathe" (who have very kindly given us permission to link to their site) is none other than footage of the Pontifical Greek Catholic Divine Liturgy served by the Blessed Redemptorist Hieromartyr Nicholas Charnetsky (click this link to the page). Only a few seconds long it is none-the-less a precious find. There are also a number of still shots of the Liturgy provided on the same page as the film clip.

Blessed Nicholas was the Apostolic Visitator appointed by the Holy Father Pope Pius XI to the Catholics of Byzantine Rite in North Western Ukraine. At the period those Catholics had often recently returned to Holy Unia from 50 years of forced disunion while their territory had been ruled by the Tsars. Thus, as will be seen in this short clip, Blessed Nicholas' himself celebrates most regally in the "Synodal" manner, the rite used to a large extent by those of whom he was the apostle.

During his August, 1937, trip to Great Britain Bl. Nicholas celebrated a Pontifical Divine Liturgy in Manchester. Soon afterwards he was invited to celebrate in Liverpool by Archbishop Downey who circulated a special pastoral letter throughout his whole archdiocese inviting all for "the very beautiful Liturgy of the Eastern Rite."

On 5 September, 1937, he celebrated at the outdoor altar above the crypt and within the demarcated area of the Liverpool Cathedral then still under construction.
More than 100 priests and some 15,000 Liverpudlians were present. The 70 strong Greek Catholic choir from Manchester sang during this Pontifical Liturgy. Archbishop Downey delivered a moving sermon about the variety of Rites in the Catholic Church and the beauty of the Eastern Rite.

A message, signed by Eugenio Cardinal Pacelli (the future Pope Pius XII), was read in which it was stated that [...], "the Holy Father bestows upon Your Grace, upon Bishop Charnetsky, upon the clergy and the faithful gathered in the cathedral square, His heartfelt Apostolic Blessing. "

On Mr Alderman's post a sensible commenter has added this touching true story: "After the imprisonment of Bishop Nicholas in Lviv, one of our fallen away Ukrainian Catholics was at his interrogation, and plucked at his beard, mussed up his hair, kicked at him, cursed him, raged at him, stomped on him. And the bishop did not even defend himself; he merely looked at him with sympathy. This continued for several days, but the bishop did not break down... Finally, the exhausted and bloodied bishop was taken back to the cell. A few days later, the same cutthroat, when he could no longer sleep or eat, came to the bishop, fell on his knees, and asked the bishop to hear his confession. The bishop confessed him, embraced him, and kissed him..."I can never forget that gracious glance," he said later. "I cannot forget his eyes, which gazed at me, full of goodness, sympathy, and forgiveness for me, a scoundrel and a villain...This is a Saint in our own days!"
. . . . indeed. †

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