The news that the Vatican dicastery responsible for such matters has been ordered by the pope of Rome to publish a decree recognizing the heroic virtues of Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky is good news indeed, as the Ottawa institute bearing his name explains.
Would it be churlish to remark that such news is grossly overdue, and should never have been held up for decades in Rome in the first place? There are important ecclesiological issues here. More than a decade ago now I asked those involved with the process why the synod of the supposedly sui iuris Ukrainian Greco-Catholic Church (UGCC) did not simply go ahead with its own process of declaring Sheptytsky a saint (of which I am not in doubt). The argument in favor of handling matters locally only gained strength under the papacy of Benedict XVI, who returned beatifications to the home church of the candidate in question, and was, moreover, on record going back decades in calling for far greater decentralization (of many issues and practices) out of Rome and back to the local and regional structures of the Church. Canonizations were once, of course, very local affairs, and only gradually centralized in Rome for reasons that make rather limited sense today.
There are, moreover, important geopolitical considerations, at least according to John Allen. I think Allen may be making more of this than meets the eye, but let that pass for now.
What of this towering man--both literally and figuratively (he was nearly 7 feet tall)? Who was this "lion of Halychyna"? For those unfamiliar with his life, this recent article, while suffering from the usual infelicities of English (and some confusion about Habsburg geography), is not a bad place to start. The historian Timothy Snyder--who, I recently discovered with some surprise, is apparently a fluent Ukrainian speaker--outlined Sheptytsky's role in rescuing Jews from the Holocaust in this 2009 piece from the New York Review of Books. Snyder is the author of such important and well-received studies as his recent Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and earlier works, including The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569-1999.
For those who want good studies on Sheptytsky, there are, fortunately, several in English by reputable scholars--though, alas, no good book-length biography that I know of, notwithstanding the fact his rich, long, productive life would certainly lend itself to one. Perhaps the estimable church historian and priest Athanasius McVay, author of several recent studies, and author also of this invaluable blog, can be thumb-screwed into writing one if he is not already doing so. I interviewed him here about one of his earlier books; but see here also for others.
Returning for a moment to the question of his role in the Holocaust, see this handsome and moving book recently published by the Metropolitan Andriy Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in Ottawa: Archbishop Andrei Sheptytsky and the Ukrainian Jewish Bond. But see even more the memoirs of one Jew whose survival he attributes to Sheptytsky: Kurt Lewin's A Journey Through Illusions. (A Ukrainian version was apparently published in 2007.) This is a haunting, moving book deserving a wide audience.
For a study of Sheptytsky's liturgical theology, see Peter Galadza's The Theology and Liturgical Work of Andrei Sheptytsky (1865-1944).
For his sophiology, see Andriy Chirovsky's Pray for God's Wisdom: The Mystical Sophiology of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky.
For his moral theology, see Andrii Krawchuk's Christian Social Ethics in Ukraine: The Legacy of Andrei Sheptytsky.
For an early and very short work about his ecumenical activity, see George Perejda's Apostle of Church Unity: The life of the servant of God, Metropolitan Andrew Sheptytsky. But there is in fact a much more recent, much more scholarly, and much more wide-ranging treatment of his ecumenical activity and much else besides in the collection Morality and Reality: The Life and Times of Andrei Sheptyts'kyi. Edited by Paul Robert Magocsi and Krawchuk, with an introduction by the eminent historian Jaroslav Pelikan, this collection is not to be missed.
After his death on 1 November 1944, Sheptytsky was succeeded as primate by the formidable Joseph Slipyj, who was arrested the next year along with the rest of the UGCC hierarchy and sent to the Gulag.
Many other Ukrainian Catholics were simply shot or murdered in other horrifying ways. Some of them were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001. Some of their stories are told in Blessed Bishop Nicholas Charnetsky, C.Ss.R., and Companions Modern Martyrs of the Ukrainian Catholic Church: Modern Martyrs of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. I also drew some lessons from this "church of martyrs" in a recent article here.
The story of another martyr is told by Athanasius McVay in God's Martyr, History's Witness.
Slipyj was not killed but spent a brutal 18 years in concentration camps. He would be released in 1963 and exiled to Rome (his "gilded cage" as I was told he called it) for the remaining 21 years of his life, dying just a scant 5 years before the legalization of the UGCC and its emergence from the underground.
Slipyj was the object of a study by the eminent Yale historian Jaroslav Pelikan: Confessor Between East and West: A Portrait of Ukrainian Cardinal Josyf Slipyj. This, too, is an invaluable study and nobody with any interest in these matters can afford to be without this study written by Pelikan, who was regarded by many as the doyen of church historians until his death in 2006.
On the thirtieth anniversary of Slipyj's death last September, several publishers brought out English translations of some of his works. One such may be found here.