This information, incredible as it seems, was revealed this past week by Father Andriy Chirovsky, pastor of St. Michael Ukrainian Catholic Church in Tucson and founder of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at St. Paul University in Ottawa, Ontario. Here is a clip from Catholic News Service:
After Blessed John Paul II met with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev Dec. 1, 1989, Gorbachev proclaimed that the Ukrainian Catholics were free to register their faith.
“Nobody knew at that point how many people would identify themselves as Ukrainian Catholic,” Father Chirovsky said. “Not the CIA, not the KGB, not the Vatican — nobody knew. We didn’t know ourselves.”
Some thought it would be in the tens of thousands. Others projected the hundreds of thousands. Father Chirovsky said 5 million people stepped forward. In that first year, 1,000 Russian Orthodox priests made known their allegiance to the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Father Chirovsky feels deeply that connection to the persecuted church, having been ordained by a priest who spent 18 years in a Soviet concentration camp. He recalls Cardinal Josyf Slipyj asking him to turn on the lights one day — he could not bear the dark as it reminded him too much of his imprisonment in Siberia. Read more on this as well as this priest’s evaluation of the Ukrainian crisis here.