Icons, Liturgy, and Church Renewal in Eastern Europe

Conference of the International Study Commission on Media, Religion, and Culture

Ukrainian Catholic University and Dnister Hotel, Lviv, Ukraine

May 11-17, 2004

Report prepared by David Morgan

The members of the International Study Commission on Media, Religion, and Culture (ISMRC) met in the venerable city of Lviv, in Western Ukraine, to examine the role of icons and liturgy in the renewal of church life since the end of the Soviet period. Ukraine offers observers an old and important encounter of East and West, of Latin and Orthodox Christianity, and of a truly multi-cultural history that has passed through the nightmares of twentieth-century war and tyranny.

Lviv, Ukraine

In keeping with its special interest in the popular uses of media, the Commission wished to learn more about the importance of images in popular practice as well as in the liturgical renewal of Ukrainian churches over the last decade and more.

Several questions occupied the Commission during its visit, as members met with artists, theologians, liturgists, journalists, scholars, a human rights activist, religious and laity: how do devotional practice in the home and outside of the church join with public worship as the means for the formation of faith in post-Soviet Ukraine? Why are images important and how should they be produced and used? What role if any do music and the arts play in religious education? How does religion figure in public as well as religious journalism in Ukraine? What role do radio, television, Internet, and print play in religious training of clergy and church workers, in instruction of laity, in private devotion, in formal worship? Are scholars in Ukraine and Eastern Europe studying religion, media, and the arts? Is there historical, sociological, theological, or anthropological study that can be identified as helpful for furthering the understanding of media and religion in Ukraine and the broader region.

May 11

The first experience for members of ISMRC was a service of divine liturgy at the Church of the Transfiguration in order to commence with a strong sense of the prevailing mode of worship, which differs markedly from Catholic and Protestant worship.

Iconostasis during divine liturgy in the Church of the Transfiguration

Following the service, the group visited Orthodox churches, a Catholic Dominican church, and an Armenian church. Andriy Shkrabyuk provided helpful lecture about the practice of the Armenian liturgy.

Andriy Shkrabyuk addresses Commission members at the Armenian Church of the Assumption of the Virgin. Jeffrey Wills serves as translator.

Session I: Religion and Human Rights

After lunch at the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) and a tour and history of the facility conducted by Professor Jeffrey Wills, Vice-Rector of the UCU, the conference began with a session on religion and human rights in Ukraine, led by veteran human rights activist and Vice-Rector of the UCU, Mryoslav Marynovych. Myroslav, who spent ten years in a gulag because he was a member of the Helsinki Group, which openly advocated human rights during the Soviet era, is also a founding member of Ukraine Amnesty International and director of the Institute of Religion and Society at the UCU. The complete text of Myroslav’s presentation is available on-line at http://iscmrc.org/english/Lviv-UCU-HR.html

Myroslav Marynovych

Session II: Religion and Journalism in Ukraine

The second session in the afternoon examined religion and journalism in Ukraine, and was moderated by Natalya Klymovska, director of the Information Office of the UCU. The speakers were Petro Didula and Olia Jacenko. The panel and additional participants considered how much the Ukrainian public was interested in religious matters. Petro Didula contended that secular media focus on the “shallow features”of religion such as picturesque festivals whereas religious media sources give too much information about religious matters for lay readers. Taras Antoshevsky, the Ukrainian language editor of the Religious Information Service of Ukraine (http://www.risu.org.ua/), claimed that Western Ukraine covers religion better than in the eastern portion of the country, where many fewer Ukrainians attend worship services and only sensational items tend to be reported. Religious news is produced by people who are not trained as journalists, which accounts for the poor level of work. Protestants, Taras asserted, possess most and the best websites.

Speakers such as Olia Jacenko repeatedly observed that media producers were not interested in religion, that journalists were often poorly trained and illiterate about religion, and that coverage of religion was therefore bad. A prevailing stereotype is that only clergy can write about religion. Education of journalists should be improved as well as research on the influence of religious mass media on audiences. Natalya pointed out that Ukrainian journalists were invited to a summer theology seminar at UCU, but few showed any interest. Myroslav mentioned that an ecumenical seminar on intolerance in the press was conducted at the UCU, to which religious and editors were invited.

Session with journalists in religious and secular press

May 12

Session III: Icons as Liturgy, Fine Art, and Historical Artifacts

The opening session of the morning was dedicated to discussion of icons as liturgy, fine art, and historical artifact. Panel members included iconographers, restorers, museum staff, and scholars and teachers. The session was chaired by Sister Victoria Luka, an iconographer and scholar of the theology of icons, who teaches at the UCU. Panelists discussed the historical formation of the present mix of traditional icons and mass-produced popular imagery in Greek Catholic churches. During the Soviet period, the underground church used Western imagery such as the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, Christ at prayer in Gethsemane, and even lenticular images (images that change appearance as the viewer shifts position from side to side—one of these appears in the Church of St. George in Lviv on a side altar, consisting of an image of the face on the Shroud of Turin, which morphs into a portrait of Jesus). The production of traditional icons and their use in churches was limited and even proscribed. The use of images in the home was more common. After the end of the Soviet period, church members brought their Western, mass-produced imagery to the churches for installation there, where much of it remains today.

Panel on icons (left to right): Sister Victoria, Roman Vasylyk, Vasyl Rudeyko, Natalya Shumylo, Rostyslav Pohorilec, Ruslan Siryj, and Voloymyr Zhyshkovych

Panel on icons, continued: Rostyslav Pohorilec, Ruslan Siryj, Voloymyr Zhyshkovych, Ivanka Krypyakevych-Dymyd, Sister Yelena Herasym, Mariya Tsymbalista, Nataliya Tserklevych, and Mykhaylo Petrovych

One of the commonplaces that emerged in conversation was that the Soviet period produced the tension between popular and elite iconographical views in the present.

But Volodymyr Zhyshkovych, an art historian and member of the panel, pointed out that the tension predates the Soviet era: imagery such as the Sacred Heart was used by Greek Catholics in Western Ukraine long before the Soviets dominated life in the nation. The tension appears more between Latin and Greek sensibilities. Catholic popular imagery came largely from Poland (it is noteworthy that Greek Catholics in Ukraine are referred to by the Orthodox as “the Polish Church”). In fact, Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky adopted a policy in the early twentieth century of exchanging new images for old icons in Ukrainian churches in order to collect specimens of icons for the collection housed in the National Museum in Lviv.

The panel helped demonstrate that Ukraine itself exhibits historical tensions that are expressed in debates over icons and liturgy. Western Ukraine has used Polish and European influences such as Catholic imagery to distance itself from Russia. The Orthodox Church in Ukraine is auto-cephalic, or nationally independent, seeking to maintain independence from the Russian Orthodox Church. In the western region of Ukraine there is a strong desire for a ‘Galacian style’in icons, which is apparent in the collection of icons in the National Museum. Much of the work is ‘non-canonical’inasmuch as it departs from the recognized visual traditions and iconography of Orthodox icons. But the visual strength of Galacian icons, their age, and their robust representation in the Sheptytsky collection and also in fine examples housed at Univ, the Studite monastery outside of Lviv, offer Greek Catholics in the portion of the country west of the Carpathian Mountains a sense of national identity that includes them as Catholic Ukrainians.

Some members of the panel expressed grave concern over the state of the Christian Church in Ukraine today, describing it even as “catastrophic.”Priests and congregations seem unaware of the riches of icons and liturgical practice, so much so that many are destroying old icons and replacing them with images of poor workmanship. The term used for this imagery by panel members was “kitsch.”

Panelists appeared to use the term ‘icon’in several different ways. At least five categories of imagery emerged in conversation:

  1. Byzantine icon: ‘high art’, canonical, grounded in ancient Orthodox iconographical tradition

  2. Galacian icon: Western Ukrainian regional version of classical or Byzantine icon

  3. Primitive or folk icons: non-canonical, locally produced images by untrained painters, but exhibits fine workmanship

  4. Kitsch: poorly crafted imagery, either hand-made or mass-produced; typically Latin or Roman Catholic subject-matter

  5. Religious or sacred image: non-iconic imagery such as devotional art used in the home; Western religious fine art (such as Renaissance art by Michelangelo or Raphael); not part of liturgical practice.

Session IV: The Use, Nature, and Authority of Icons

Some panelists, such as iconographer and teacher Roman Vasylyk, argued for a distinction of icon and profane art, which consisted principally in the distinction between their portrayal of spiritual and material worlds. The icon does not portray material reality, but transfigures its subject matter into a spiritual vision of revelation, avoiding reference to the here and now as well as readily identifiable features of personality, place, and time.

Vasylyk contended that the material world is transfigured by the spiritual. “The real,”he stated, “is represented in a way that transports us into the symbolic.”Others strongly disagreed with this characterization, wondering if it encouraged a kind of dualism. Sister Victoria pointed to several examples of icons such as Galacian icons in which local features are plainly visible, arguing that the theology of icons, informed by the Incarnation, endorses materiality and historicity. Sister Victoria stressed that the icon is a visual “mode of communication between God and a certain people,”a language or relation that was not to be prescriptive in an overarching, stringently canonical way. Sr. Victoria described icons as a “common language,”a theological reflection shared by a people and church teaching, and grounded in the liturgical context of worship.

Iconographer Ivanka Krypyakevych-Dymyd provide the following categorization of images for the conversation:

  1. Professional icon: Byzantine, Galacian, or any other, produced by qualified iconographers for use by the Church

  2. Folk icon: product of self-taught iconographer, reflecting many schools and styles

  3. Kitsch: not icons at all, but any image that is the product of poor craftsmanship.

This categorization recognizes the legitimacy of ‘folk’icons and elevates the status of the Galacian icon to the Byzantine. But it also conceals the cultural politics of regional identity issues and the hierarchy that attends local, regional, national, and international categorization. And it ignores the important tension regarding Latin and Greek sensibilities as it historically informs the Greek Catholic Church in Western Ukraine. On the other hand, this set of definitions may be politically charged by the desire of many in Lviv and the Catholic Church in Ukraine to achieve ecumenical unity and liturgical renewal understood as a revivification of Orthodox liturgy and icons. An ecclesial commission was formed five years ago to pursue this goal, which meant providing advice to congregations that were re-decorating existing churches or building new ones. The commission has remained largely non-functional. Ivanka and Roman are both members of the commission.

For statements on the nature of the icon by participants in the conference, see appendix A.

Commission members spent the afternoon visiting the National Museum to view a splendid display of Galacian icons from the sixteenth century to the twentieth and visiting the studio of iconographer Ivanka Krypyakevych-Dymyd, pictured below.

Ivanka (upper left) discusses her work as an iconographer
with members of the Study Commission

May 13

Session V: Liturgical Renewal

This session was a fast-paced and open exchange of strongly-felt views. The editor wishes to thank Lynn Schofield-Clark for enriching his notes with her own.

Vasyl Rudeyko served as moderator of an animated session on the liturgy. The session opened with choral performances. Vasyl opened with a discussion of the nature of liturgy as prayer that serves to teach, which has been the tradition at least since John Chrysostom. A comparable tension to the one explored yesterday with regard to icons has been experienced in Ukraine regarding liturgy: Latinization has meant the search for understandable, less complicated liturgical forms. Vasyl insisted that liturgical renewal means simplification, a transformation of tradition into something that speaks directly to the people in order to engage them in worship. Liturgical revival means the retrieval of traditional liturgical forms suppressed or discouraged during the Soviet period. The aim of renewal is to take the best from the past and combine it with good contemporary writing, which will instill a new breath in liturgical practice. The modern crisis of arrested development during the Soviet period does not call for a return to the pre-Soviet past (which, it turns out, already had Latin elements as part of the tradition), but a modernization of tradition for the sake of the living Church. The lack of a form of liturgy that invites and engages worshippers fails to be engaging and relevant. Rigid conformity to ancient forms of liturgy precludes engagement of worshippers.

Armenian choral group, "Sahmos," led by Andriy Shkrabyuk
Student choral group, "Krylos"

Vasyl contended that the liturgy needs to be simplified, by which he meant that its many monastic layers should be reduced. The second Vatican Council leapt back to the patristic era for the liturgical reforms that it endorsed. The Greek Catholic Church needn’t be quite so radical since it never lost contact with the patristics. But the liturgy should develop greater sensitivity to the needs of modern, urban society and strive for the active participation of congregants. The liturgy that employs a choral form that does not require congregational participation is anything but the “common action”that is the etymological meaning of ‘liturgy’. Vasyl warned that liturgy must not be a thing in itself, something between priest and choir. When it is that, liturgy fails to attend to the person. When this occurs, it leads him to say something radical: “Although I love Byzantine things, I experience salvation more in the Latin setting than the Byzantine.”

Andriy Shkrabyuk added that parishioners should share experience of liturgy, especially liturgy with the Eucharist. “We are happy with our Byzantinizing,”he said, “but what about our Christianity?”He made what he called the following “radical proposal”: “We should put the emphasis on being Christian instead of being Byzantine.”Andriy also declared that anti-semitic features remain in the Byzantine text, which the Latins eliminated long ago.

Some responded by hoping that East and West should not be polarized nor should intellectual and popular be opposed to one another. Every culture incorporates essential elements. In Byzantine theology and practice, salvation is communally proclaimed and experienced, not only individually. 90% of liturgy in Ukraine is the popular form. Choirs and priests are a new element in the modern situation that must correct the crisis of arrested development of the Soviet period.

Prof. Yury Yasinovsky of the UCU’s Institute of Liturgy disagreed with Andriy’s and Vasyl’s assessment. Byzantine liturgy foresees mystical participation, not a rationalistic experience. Music and singing create participation. In Byzantine theology and worship the aim is not the salvation of a single person, but the whole community. The last 50 years of musical education have failed to produce leadership and have spawned only popular and amateur choirs, which lack professional artistry. Through music the Ukrainian church mediated the greater European culture from the medieval period to the Baroque. But this is no longer the case. The Liturgical Institute is seeking to return a high level of artistry to the liturgy in order to spread artistic excellence to the folk.

Fabio Pasqualetti, member of the ISMRC, asked how liturgy in Ukraine helped people live their lives better? Andriy responded that while there was much mysticism in the church, there were few human rights outside of it. He referred to xenophobia among priests and insisted that mysticism should influence everyday life. Vasyl agreed, asserting that liturgy needs to spill out into fuller life. The main task of liturgy is to help people live outside of liturgy. The current liturgy has structural problems and in insufficient theological foundation. He also contended that the traditional liturgy is anti-semitic. Simon Marincak, among the contingent of Slovak liturgists and theologians who attended the meeting, rejected the claim that anything in the liturgy was anti-semitic, no more so than the Gospel of John: “If we must re-write the liturgy, we must re-write the Gospel.”According to Byzantine theology, the aim of liturgy is the theosis or deification of the human person, making believers partakers in the divine nature, as described in 2 Peter 1: 4. Another Slovak participant stressed the cultural embeddedness of liturgies and endorsed differences of the Eastern rite as mystical and beautiful. I am Eastern, not Latin, he claimed. On the question of relevance and the need for the liturgy to change how people behave in everyday life, the speaker asserted: “It is not the liturgy’s fault if people do wrong after worship. That is a moral problem, not a liturgical one.”

For several brief statements on ‘what the liturgy should do today in the Church in Ukraine,’see appendix B.

Session VI: Religious Education in Eastern Europe

The session was moderated by Fr. Marek Blaza, SJ, who teaches in Poland and at the UCU. Fr. Marek opened with a discussion of major problems in Eastern Europe regarding the nationalist skewing of churches, which tend to preach their national identity and so create division; and the confessionalist sensibility of many groups, which challenges Christian unity (an attitude which Fr. Marek humorously characterized as the pseudo-doctrine, “outside my diocese there is no salvation”).

Fr. Marek Blaza

Fr. Marek and many others present stressed the need for unity and ecumenical tolerance in order for education to succeed. Members of Michal Lacko’s Centre of Spirituality East-West in Kosice, Slovakia, announced that ecumenism is their primary focus (www.vychod-zapad.com). Their mission is to go to the roots of the Church by means of scholarly research in order to determine how to cancel the obstacles to unity and to remove sectarian hatreds among Christians. Education is an important task for the Slovak members of the Greek Catholics since there are only 200,000 members of the church. Members of the Centre are active translating Old Church Slavonic liturgical texts into modern Slovak. The operative question for this group and others is “how can the Church be united again?”Others present wonder why it is so important to focus on ecclesiology, liturgical differences, and nationality? Fr. Michael, a member of the UCU faculty, asked “Why not just be a Christian? Why not just ask ‘what does it mean to be a Christian in the world today?’”

Sister Luiza Tsiupa, who has long been active in Christian education in Lviv, underscored the importance of cooperating with Orthodox churches in her experience as an educator. She described school activities and catechetical materials aimed at children from 5 to 17 years of age. She strongly endorsed the importance of the parish in Christian education.

Sr. Luiza and her translator, Halyna Pastushuk

Andriy Shkrabyuk declared that religious education should be based on personal testimony of experience, a process of introducing a human being into the life of the church. Leaders and hierarchs, he claimed, were afraid of community because they fear it as a menace to Byzantine identity, which is not communal (democratic), he believes, but hierarchical in nature.

Session VII: Youth and Popular Culture

This session gathered a panel of undergraduate students at the UCU. Hryhoriy Prystay discussed his thesis project as a photographer of religion in Ukraine. His remarks explored the use of photographs in iconography, in which he examined the reliance of iconographers on photographs as they create new icons as well as the use of photographs in such rituals as an exorcist priest who works miracles of healing through photographs of individuals brought to him. Hryhoriy and the other students pointed out that older people in Ukraine regard icons as images to which they pray in church, whereas many younger people wonder about their use, even avoiding prayer to icons in the home since they do not believe that icons will protect the home. Young people want spirituality, they said. Nevertheless, when he described the nature and function of icons, Hryhoriy affirmed the use of new media, but insisted that the subjects of icons must remain traditional: Jesus, Mary, and the Saints. Icons are to provide access to roots, ancient traditions. Style can change, even medium, but function must remain constant: the visual return to origins in order to provide a vital source for spirituality.

May 14

Jeffrey Wills summarized major themes to emerge from the sessions so far.

  1. Recovery from trauma. Ukraine suffered the death of 17 million during the Soviet era, the depletion and destruction of infrastructure, the suppression of religion, the loss of memory and traditional practice.

  2. Continuing martyrdom. Difficulties remain after the end of the Soviet period. The nation continues to be plagued by brain drain and corruption. While many Ukrainians would like to have joined the European Union, it appears inevitable to many that Russia may re-assert dominance over the nation.

  3. Recycling. 3,000 churches changed hands since 1990, having been returned to congregations from Soviet control, or have begun construction.

Pastoral challenges and problems in evangelization are significant. One half of all Ukrainians are unchurched. 90% of the books in Ukraine are in Russian. Perhaps as many as half of Ukrainians speak Russian.

Session VIII: Scholarship on Religion, Art, and Media in Eastern Europe

This session gave the floor to younger scholars who are engaged in various forms of research in the region. Vlad Naumesku, a doctoral student in social anthropology at the Max Planck Institute in Germany and native of Romania, is studying the re-entrance of Greek Catholics in Ukraine and Romania by conducting ethnography in a multi-confessional village in Ukraine and a site in Romania. He is especially interested in the recovering and preserving of memory in the wake of a traumatic period of death and population movement.

Gabriel Hanganu
Bohdan Troyanovsky and Fr. Marek Blaza

Gabriel Hanganu, a doctoral student in cultural anthropology at Oxford University and also a native of Romania, is beginning a project on the comparison of icon production, distribution, and reception in Romania and Ukraine. He is especially interested in the role of the audience and theorizes that the icon is not just an image, but an evolving biography, involving time no less than space.

Sister Victoria and Vasyl Rudeyko

Vasyl Rudeyko discussed his current liturgical study. He is completing a dissertation on liturgical history at the Catholic University of Eichtstaett-Ingolstadt, Germany. Vasyl's dissertation is entitled "Matins in the Byzantine Church." Vasyl also described a project on liturgical manuscripts led by Yurij Yasynovskyj.

Sr.Victoria discussed her work on the icon of the Last Supper and the mosaics of The Holy Wisdom Church in Kiev.

Bohdan Troyanovsky discussed book publication in Ukraine.

Mykhaylo Perun, who is completing a Ph.D. at the Gregorian University in Rome, shared something of his experience of the publication of liturgical music, a project to publish classical church music on compact disc. He is currently producing a multi-media project called “Spiritual Ukraine.”It explores icons and music by presenting historical, theological, catechetical, pedagogical, and prayerful aspects of individual icons. The product will be used to inform prayer and to teach.

Session IX: Presentations by Commission Members—Current Research

Juan-Carlos Henriquez summarized eleven investigations being conducted by faculty and students at his institution in the field of communication and media. The first four consist of stage one; the remaining seven belong to a second phase of research:

  1. the reception of Harry Potter, particularly with regard to concerns about the presence of witchcraft in the books

  2. the use of Tarot among Catholics, particularly the importance of Tarot for self-construction, self-knowledge in the absence of the other, self-projection in the mirror of the cards

  3. Children’s television soaps: what is the hermeneutic of transcendence: analogical or metaphorical, and the use of metaphor to link programming with values in their lives

  4. Migration of Catholic youth to a new sect called “Christians”in Mexico City

  5. Exit poll of 300 viewers of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ

  6. Study of new saints and cults—the Holy Dead and Evil Green (Jesus mal verde), seeking to understand how the saint is acquired and venerated and who is administering the process. What are the rules and rituals associated with the practice?

  7. The distribution of esoteric books in Sanborn’s chain store

  8. Migration of Catholics to Buddhism in Mexico City

  9. Dressing as Indians and dancing in city center

  10. Catholics for free choice

  11. Gay-Lesbian-Transsexual-Transgender: how being on the margins has been inverted to affirm the identity of this group by the affirmation of ecclesial identity. Members of these groups are appropriating structural forms from the Catholic Church to organize themselves socially, and are thereby acquiring an ecclesial sensibility.

Fabio, Kwabena, and Juan-Carlos in Ivanka’s studio

Lynn Clark described her recent work on youth, popular culture, religion, and new media in a project entitled “Constant Contact Generation.”She and her co-researchers have interviewed sixty young people between the ages of 11 and 20, with an average age of 14, seeking to understand how young people use Internet with regard to religion and spirituality. She has found that Internet tends to be an extended mode of conversation among youth, and outlined in her presentation seven religious or spiritual uses of the medium among youth:

  1. use of internet to find information on religion such as visiting web sites

  2. class religious seeking

  3. seeking support or advice from off-line friends

  4. seeking support from distant friends

  5. encountering religion in conversation on-line

  6. chain email that deals with spiritual or religious subjects, reinforcing existing beliefs

  7. Chat rooms—conversations in which participants fight over religion; usually boys more than girls.

Lynn Schofield-Clark
Peter Horsfield and Stewart Hoover

Stewart Hoover described the Pew survey on Internet and religion that he has undertaken recently (www.pewinternet.org), called Faith On Line.

Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu presented images of pilgrimage sites among Catholics in Ghana and discussed the practice of anointing with olive oil among Ghanaian Pentecostals.

Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu

Bob White reported on three book projects in which he is currently engaged: a history of normative theory in communication ethics; intercultural communication and dialogue; and a textbook on media and religion. He also described several student projects underway or recently completed at the Gregorian University on the nature of indigenous communication; journalist values in newsrooms; a comparative and historical study of community radio in Africa and Philippines; and street children’s use of media in Peru and Congo.

Jolyon Mitchell presented a working paper on the use of radio in Rwanda to incite ethnic violence and racial hatred. His presentation, “Reimagining Radio,”will appear in an extended and developed version as a chapter in his book, Media and Christian Ethics, forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

Jolyon Mitchell
Adán Medrano

May 15

The Commission met to discuss its next meeting in Melbourne, July 8-15.

Siriwan Santiskultarm presented two rough cuts of videos on female prostitutes in Cambodia, which were the work of the participants of Signis Asia’s “Women in Communication” project. The first was titled “A New Beginning” and the other “The Cry with No Tears.” Siriwan led the group of women from different countries in Asia and served as a resource person, training them in video production.

Adán Medrano presented his documentary, produced for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled “Portraits of Faith'.

Kwabena presented the prospect of developing an MA in Communications in Accra as a collaborative venture among several institutions. He requested three areas of support from the Commission:

  1. assistance in organizing literature resources in the form of a library

  2. research funding for students to conduct research

  3. honoraria for instructors

Lynn lead discussion of a Reader on Media, Religion, and Culture, which she plans to edit with Jolyon and Michele Rosenthal (University of Haifa) for the book series at Routledge, “Media and Religion,”edited by Jolyon, Stewart, and David. Lynn identified seven sections for the Reader:

  1. Understanding Media—Origins, Theory, History, Contexts

  2. Celebrating and Rejecting Media

  3. Producing Media

  4. Analyzing Media

  5. Receiving Media

  6. Critiquing Media

  7. Developing New Media

After the business meeting, members of the Commission toured the city of Lviv, visiting several churches, lead by Marija Tsymbalista.

Iconostasis of Paraskeviya (Holy Martyr) Orthodox Church

Fran Plude in St. Onufriy Basilian Church

Jolyon and Sister Victoria at a Basilian Monastery outside of Lviv

Touring group at the Church of St. John the Baptist

After touring the city, the group drove two hours south of Lviv to follow a popular pilgrimage taking place. We stopped at a village church, where many of the pilgrims were gathered, and then drove to Univ, a Studite monastery, where the pilgrimage ends with the celebration of the Eucharist. Many pilgrims make a point of taking spring water at Univ since the Madonna revealed the spring to a monk several centuries ago when the monastery was founded.

Pilgrimage site in a village en route to Univ
Pilgrims resting


Pilgrims on the way to Univ
Pilgrims at the spring at Univ


Univ Monastery
Mementos for sale to pilgrims


May 16

Discussion among Commission members covered the following topics:

Further guidelines and problems associated with the Fellowship program conducted by the Commission.

Articles for a special issue of the journal, Studies in World Christianity, to be edited by Jolyon, on the topic of television and world Christianity.

A textbook on media, religion, and culture for the Routledge series. Presented by Bob White.

Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and its send-up on an episode of South Park.

May 17

A few members of the Commission took a van to the Carpathian Mountains to see rural churches as well as the rugged life and beauty of a region that has not changed much in the last century.

On a mountain peak in the Carpathians

Wooden crucifix at Univ
Statue of Mary commemorating apparition in a Carpathian village


David Morgan before an Orthodox church in the village of Hrushiv
Juan-Carlos, Stewart, and Siriwan before wooden church in Drohobych




Appendices to the Report

Appendix A

Statements by conference participants in response to the question:

What is an icon?

A Brief Statement on the Definition and Use of Icons in Greek Catholic Practice”

Sr. Victoria Luka

Ukrainian Catholic University

Lviv, Ukraine

Icons in Greek Catholic practice in Western Ukraine have preserved their deep-rootedness in ecclesial life and in their connection with the culture of the region—until the present. It is generally accepted that the icon is fundamentally related to its prototype (by depicting a person and bearing a person’s name). This relation allows a communication with God or a person depicted (later –God). Thus, the icon is defined primarily as the way of communication with God and as the assertion of God’s presence, both in the church and in the home. The icon witnesses and recalls the presence of God.

In this manner, the icon becomes very important in prayer, especially in private prayer. The icon brings the beholder to stand in the presence of God, to concentrate one’s attention, and to communicate one’s salvation from inner and outer chaos. In the church icons help the faithful to approach mystery, more deeply uniting the verbal (what they read, sing or hear) and the iconic (what they see, kiss and venerate at the center of the church). This connection is apparent in the case of the festal icons (icons of the twelve principal liturgical feasts).

Furthermore, there is a family icon. Its story begins on a wedding day. Parents get a new icon and bless their children with it as a newly wedded couple (there is also a local tradition of parental blessing on different occasions). This icon is given a special place in the new couple’s home, in the room where the daily prayers are to be said. It is often placed in the corner (known as the “beautiful corner”) with a lit candle. The icon again brings the witness of God’s presence, His dwelling and blessings in the home. This corner of blessing also provides the protection of God over the family.

The comprehension of the protective power of the icon is different, up to the use of icons even as a type of talisman. Many people, therefore, have their own pocketsize traveling icons (keeping them always as the assurance of God’s protection). Such icons are often presented as gifts on various occasions.

Icons are an integral part of the Tradition in both a special and a general context. Generally, to accept and to venerate icons is to be nationally and religiously conscious and to belong to the Eastern rite Church (in opposition to the Latin rite Church or to the Latinized of their own Church). The specific aspect includes the connection of the generations within one family.

For the better picture of the use of icons in Greek Catholic practice one should add some recollection on the cult (devotion) of the miraculous icons with their healing aspect, and on seeing icons as the presence of beauty and harmony.

Here I can state that Greek Catholics in Western Ukraine do not see the icon as a merely decorative item; it is well known that the icon cannot be understood and completed apart from the faith it reveals, apart from the mutual communion of God and beholder.

It should be said, however, that the cultic use of icons in public worship today is rather at a low point: the devotion to and use of icons in public worship services is less widespread than in private devotional practice.


The definition and the use of icons in Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine”

Ivanka Krypyakevych-Dymyd

Iconographer, Lviv

The veneration of icons in the tradition of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is integrated, both theoretically and practically, into the tradition of all the Eastern churches. Thus, it is improper to speak of the Greek-Catholic practice or way of veneration as if it differed from the Orthodox rite.

Definitions of the icon:

Cardinal Silvestrini: The icon is the theology that grows up with the spiritual and liturgical life of the Church.

T. Shpidlik: The icon is the Image-Word, the revelation and, at the same time, the anamnesis (remembering or recognition). Its fascinating power is in the unity of word and image, intellect and feeling, thinking and intuition.

St. John of Krondshtadt: Icons emerge from the need of our human nature. Is it possible for our human nature to do without the image? How can we think of the absent person and not imagine this person? Did not God Himself gift us with the imagination? The icon is the answer of the Church to the need of our nature.

The icon depicts a person or an event that is transfigured with the help of certain artistic resources in order to obtain its theological goal.

The artistic vocabulary of the icon:

The goal or purpose of the icon:

All the artistic resources (techniques) mentioned here serve to utter certain thought. But this thought can be revealed in the case of approaching the icon with a positive perception.

How to understand the icon?

To enter into the inner world of the icon, one should participate in the liturgical life, to venerate icons with singing and contemplation, using the incense and the candles. Step by step, the icon “reveals”itself. The inversed perspective allows the beholder to be part of the icon, to participate in the mystery depicted. We should study the icon as we study the Holy Scripture. In order to understand the icon the intellect is not sufficient, love is required.

Does the iconographer exercise freedom in the production of icons?

Yes, the iconographer can make some changes, if they are the result of his inner experience of the Word. The creative act of the human being is the participation in God’s creation. Thus, the icon unintentionally bears the imprint (reflection) of the author. The canon is not the limitation of the personal creativity; rather it’s the deepening of one’s creativity.

The icon in the liturgical practice of the Eastern Churches

The icon should be seen in the liturgical context of the Church. If the Church accepts something, it is necessarily linked with prayer and contemplation. The Church is a living organism that is transfiguring and changing. The same is happening with the icon.

There are many places within a church where icons are posted for veneration. In the homes icons are usually hung in what are called “beautiful corners.”

There are many places in Western Ukraine, where the miraculous icons are venerated. Hoshiv, Univ, Zarvanytsja and other places are well known as sites of pilgrimage.

Both the Byzantine icon and the realistic painting are used in the practice of the Greek Catholic Church. Kitsch is also part of contemporary practice. All of these kinds of images can be found within the same church building.

Problems faced by the Church today in regard to the writing and veneration of icons:


“Church and Icon in Ukraine”

Professor Roman Vasylyk,

Department of Sacred Arts
Lviv Academy of Arts

During old times Christianity accentuated the necessity of the denial of vital human things, sacrificing not only material goods but with them one’s own life for the sake of glorifying almighty God.

Christianity stressed the spiritual beauty of the human being as opposed to the antique culture where body cult had prevailed. Therefore, large eyes that dominate in icons are the mirror of the human soul. A thin nose and lips symbolized silence and sharp ears that listen. Shoulders sloped downward signaled submission. All of these features served the purpose of amplifying the image of the saint and what was to be said of his example.

Painting in the Latin Church carries mostly an illustrative and cognitive character, and depends on an artistic level of the masterpiece. We may admire and talk more about the author of the image than the actual intention of the work.

Generally in the Latin Church the crucified body of Jesus Christ is naturalistically displayed, reminding one of the maimed body that suffers in convulsions before death. But in the Eastern Church paintings of the crucified Christ do not possess such an accent because the great sacrifice of the Christ is voluntary. The savior sacrificed himself in order to save humanity from original sin.

In icons that depict the Holy Mother with the Christ Child, called the “Hodigitria,”Jesus Christ is pictured not as a new born child but as Emmanuel, which means ‘the road of the savior.’Jesus Christ is held by his Mother, with one of his hands blessing faithful people and the other holding Holy Scripture. This is one of the iconographical peculiarities of the Eastern rite, which outlines the meaning of the embodied Word.

Icons elaborated iconographic scenes, which were proved to be canonical. Early Christian iconographers as well as modern ones kept to those canons. Therefore icons as liturgical texts or liturgical melodies have their own profound symbolic meaning encoded in their specific shapes. It is inadmissible to omit particular details or figures from icons—as much as it is impossible to neglect individual notes in a piece of music. One should possess theological and artistic preparation in order to understand the symbols and science of the icon.

The modern period of development of sacred art in Ukraine struggles with the spiritual poverty of its people due to the historical circumstances of the 20th century.

And it is absurd that inter-confessional antagonisms proceed (and do so on historically ungrounded belief) over arguments regarding whose confession is more truthful. In this historic period of (post-Soviet) national independence we should consolidate the nation’s development and strongly keep in mind the main commandment of the Christ: “Love one another”(John 15: 17).

Of no less importance is the problem of the reconstruction and decoration of churches. We lack qualified experts, people with proper knowledge, with suitable theoretical and practical preparation to do the work. Pseudo-artists repaint priceless works of famous artists, which have been preserved until now only by a chance.

Sometimes the incompetence of parishes, even the irresponsibility of priests, brothers, and nuns, especially in the outlying districts, leads to tragic consequences, to the destruction of our spiritual and artistic heritage, and to the creation of low quality patterns.

It is proper to remember the period of activity of bishops of the Greek-Catholic church, the work of Andreiy Sheptytscky and his follower, St. Patriarch Yosyph Slipy.

Amongst political and economical disturbances there is also an emerging problem of sacred art. Galacia was full of reproductions of religious pictures such as Christ with Apostles “with a rye field”in the background, or “Holy Mary with the Child who feeds the doves,”printed by Austrian lithographic firms. This trend has touched sacred art as well, forcing out traditional iconographic values, common for Ukrainians.

The only thing possible is to educate the spiritual elite in order to withstand such tendencies. Based on compilations of icons of Ukrainian paintings, a museum has been opened which has become the scientific center of ideas of traditional iconography.

The chapel in the Seminary was decorated in such a way that seminarians still in the process of studying can observe and comprehend the style of Ukrainian sacred art in order one day to implement it in parish churches. This idea was realized by the rector of the theological academy, Yoseph Slipy. The work in the chapel was produced by Petro Holodny, an artist from Eastern Ukraine.

At the end of 20th century, along with Ukraine achieving independence, a special department for sacred art was formed in the Lviv Academy of Arts for the purpose of overcoming the crisis in the field of Ukrainian sacred art. This is the first department of its kind in Ukraine. The chair of the department is the author of these lines.

The activities of the department foresee the realization of an enduring program pursuing the rebirth and popularization of Ukrainian sacred art, consisting of its original stylistic traditions of the interrelated genres of sacred art, which include metal fabrication, textiles, tapestry, and book art, among others.

During its 10 years of existence, the department’s professors and students have created a great number of highly esteemed artistic works, for sacred use in Ukraine and abroad (in France, Romania, Poland, Brazil, and England).

Exhibitions of icon painting have been organized in order to popularize sacred art. In particular, the exhibition of those icons dedicated at the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.

Currently, citizens of Ukraine, Slovakia, and Brazil study at the department, possessing different backgrounds and confessions.


Appendix B

Statements by conference participants in response to the question:

What should the liturgy do today in the Church?

Vasyl Rudeyko

Doctoral Student
Catholic University of Eichstaett, Germany

The liturgy, if we try to understand it as a prayer, is first of all a conversation and in ideal a conversation, a form of speech between God and man. It can also be a conversation between people when we are keeping in touch with the catechetical aspect of the liturgy. Through their prayers people share with us their experience of God in their lives, and we try to follow this experience and to make it our own. But in both cases we are trying to do the same –we want an experience of God in our lives.

How does liturgy help us to do that? I would like to show this by discussing the example of St. Thomas. Imagine the following scene. The disciples are gathered in a room. Some of them have already had the experience of the Risen Christ. In the assembly of His followers is Christ himself, present according to His word: “Where two or three are gathered in my name I will be there.”Thomas (or our heart) is not a believer because he knows that He who was crucified is the risen one, but because Christ invites him to touch his Body. Through this experience of the Body of Christ one becomes a believer. This Body of Christ, as we know it from the Gospel, is present both immanently and transcendently in the assembly of believers.

Christ gives us not only an opportunity to touch His Body, he invites us to put our hand on His heart (maybe that is the reason for the wounds on His risen Body), to experience His love. And this is the true icon of the liturgy.

Our liturgy should be a place where Christians can experience the presence of the Body of Christ. It should give Him an opportunity to invite us to put ourselves in His victorious love. That is why the liturgy must always understand itself as an instrument, a preparation for this experience. The liturgy cannot work this experience by itself.

I think that both icons and the liturgy are called only to prepare some basis for our conversation. They are trying to create in us the point of view that is coming from God. The main reason for the liturgy is to make our thoughts become the thoughts of Christ (Phil. 2:5). Only this may justify the existence of the liturgy, the icons, and any other “mediators”between God and man.

Through these mediating things we get some image of God, which he himself creates through the people who are open for his work in a specific culture, time, etc. That’s why we can hardly speak of a good liturgy or a good icon. A good liturgy is not good because it was written by St. John Chrysostom, but because God himself is working in the liturgy.

Both the liturgy and the icon are “good”only when an iconographer or a liturgist are open to God, and do not try to reveal to others “their God”or “their vision of God.”Such liturgy will be not an image of God, but will be itself a god.

An image of God will be objective only when we will put away all images, all of “our”images. The sin of the churches is that they became someone’s churches: the church of Apostles, of Ukraine, of Kiev, of the rite –traditional churches. Sometimes we forget that we are or should really be the Church of Christ. Our liturgy should first of all present simply Jesus Christ, not the Byzantine one or Galician one. And the way to do it should be simple. People will ask me how I can imagine this simple way. I don’t know how. Jesus himself did not leave us any strict rules to organise our liturgy. Actually, he Himself should do it.

The search for Christ’s liturgy does not necessarily mean that we should put away tradition, but neither should we forbid any changes in the liturgy just to keep to our rite (regardless if it is compatible with today’s understanding). The church in Ukraine should live its liturgy out of Christ. The question of tradition is “how Christ could use our heritage today”or even “could Christ use our heritage today?”Only then will our liturgy be alive. This means that we should be open to some new liturgical forms alongside the older ones. Naturally, there is a need for historical and theological research before any changes may be undertaken.


“What should the liturgy do today?”

Simon Marincak, Liturgist


We are speaking about the purpose of the liturgy today. We know that the liturgy means “the public service.”It is designed to be celebrated in the presence of people and it is also considered a worldly copy of heavenly celebration.

Here we are dealing with two basic issues.

1) Did or did not the liturgy lose its sense? We know that we pray at the liturgy, but after leaving the church people behave badly. What is actually the purpose of the liturgy? If it is about teaching moral behavior, then the liturgy is entirely inappropriate. In other words, the liturgy does not have an immediate influence on the behavior of people. Liturgy is not a manual of behaving well in the world. But if the main purpose of the liturgy is the theosis (deification) of every single person, then the liturgy is more than just appropriate –it is perfect. The liturgy should bring us close to God; it should make us an integral part of His power, with the final aim of personal deification, that is, making us participants in divine nature, as the second letter of Peter states (2 Peter 1: 4). The liturgy offers us the means for reaching our destination. But it is important to learn and understand well how we can use the help of the liturgy.

2) Is the liturgy full of anti-Semitic texts, as some have claimed? Should it therefore be subjected to reform (i.e., should everything anti-Semitic in it change)? The liturgical texts are taken mostly from the Gospel of St. John. If we want to change it, we must change the Gospel of St. John first. However, there is nothing in the liturgical texts that we can change. Such change was also strongly prohibited at various ecumenical councils. The liturgy was inherited from the first centuries, as is witnessed by the church fathers –the saints. They are those who safeguard the correctness of the liturgy and liturgical texts. To change them would mean that church fathers were wrong and that our entire tradition is jeopardized.