Bishop Gudziak delivers Keeley Vatican Lecture

Continuing a tradition stretching back for over a decade, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies held their annual Keeley Vatican Lecture in McKenna Hall on November 6. Delivered by Bishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the talk was titled “Ukraine, Democratic Revolution, and the Challenges of a Catholic University.” The talk focused on his first-hand witness of the recent political and social unrest in Eastern Europe.

Gudziak first noted the importance of Ukraine, a country which he said upholds “the European values that guarantee peace,” particularly as an outpost against Russian imperialism. He also pointed out its struggles to keep the Gospel emphasized in society. The bishop then described “a revolution of God-given dignity,” which began in the country in late 2013. Ukraine, he said, had been moving towards membership in the European Union—a move which was denied by the president. In response, protests began on the Maidan, the main square in Kiev. Gudziak  highlighted that the protests, which were student-led, happened as a way to escape corruption. The “Soviet social legacy,” he said, has historically been one of putting ambition even before human lives. The students of the bishop’s own university, the Ukrainian Catholic University, immediately responded to these protests in what was part of a chain reaction of people everywhere standing up for the cause.

On November 30, however, the protests turned violent. The authorities “beat to a bloody pulp scores of students camping out in the night” Bishop Gudziak said, an event allayed by the fact that St. Michael’s monastery was close by to provide a safe haven. This, the bishop noted, was the start of “the development of the Church’s role—the role of all the churches” in the issue. The protests grew, including millions of people, as well as, notably “on the hour, every hour … ecumenical prayer.” Thus, the event in the Maidan continued, always with an emphasis on prayer, shown in the many chapels throughout the area, the many clergy present, and even the “tens of thousands of rosaries” which were given away. The violence, however, escaladed and culminated in the events of February 20, when, as Bishop Gudziak described, “hell broke loose” as snipers began firing upon protesters.

The European Union agreement was finally signed in June of 2014, after the ordeal faced in the months preceding it. However, in response to this “pilgrimage from fear to dignity,” as the bishop put it, there were further political troubles as Russia annexed Crimea. The violence continued—including violence against the clergy. Gudziak noted, “The people of faith were together in the Maidan, and today they’re together in graves.” The struggle in eastern Europe, the bishop said, continues today.

However, he was also quick to point out that there are still many signs of hope. The students once again are working on rebuilding from the damage done and dedicating themselves to service. But importantly, the issues present also call for new tasks in education. Describing his own work with Ukrainian Catholic University, he emphasized the need for community and the need to “change the system” through the power of his university’s Catholic education.

And as for our own role in trying to aid such social issues, the bishop had several pieces of advice: “Never underestimate the power of prayer,” he stated, also asking for more critical examination of the information people receive, as well as an emphasis on fostering reconciliation.

The lecture, on the whole, was a well-received one. Senior John Lee described it as “inspiring,” noting the remarkable nature of the “hopeful movement among the young people that seemed … centered around their faith.” James McAdams, director the Nanovic Institute, noted the importance of having such a talk and said that “it should be humbling for [Notre Dame]” to be affiliated with the Catholic universities which deal with such issues. “The Nanovic Institute,” he said, “in fact sponsors professors from the Ukrainian Catholic University to study at Notre Dame. In the face of such demanding jobs as those of the teachers in Ukraine, there is,” he said, “a demonstration of the importance of ‘showing your conviction about your Catholic identity.’”

James Rahner is a sophomore philosophy major living in Alumni Hall. He is looking forward to the Resurrection of the Dead and the Life of the World to come. Contact him at