Ukrainians bid last farewell to Greek Catholic leader

Ukrainians bid last farewell to Greek Catholic leader

Kiev (AFP) - Thousands of Ukrainians gathered in Kiev on Monday to bid a final farewell to the former leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Lubomyr Husar.

Husar, who was also seen as a spiritual leader by people of other religions in Ukraine, died on May 31 aged 84 after a long illness.

Ukraine's Greek Catholics observe Orthodox rites but are loyal to the Vatican.

"Today we say goodbye to an outstanding Ukrainian, a great Christian, a unique personality," Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told journalists as he attended the funeral at the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kiev, joined by thousands of mourners.

Husar was born in 1933 in Lviv, then in Poland and now the largest city in western Ukraine. At the age of 11 he fled to Austria during World War II after the Red Army took back control of Ukraine from the Nazis.

He was ordained in the United States and spent 46 years there and in Italy during a Soviet-era ban on the Greek Catholic Church.

Husar returned to Ukraine in 1993 after the fall of the USSR and in 2001 was approved by pope John Paul II to become the supreme archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

He served from 2005 till 2011, stepping down due to illness.

His successor Svyatoslav Shevchuk attended Husar's funeral in Kiev, where he was buried in the cathedral's crypt.

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