Article originally published May 9, 2018 by First Things
By George Weigel
When I first visited Lviv, the principal city of western Ukraine, in 2002, the transportation from plane to airport terminal was an old bus towed by a Soviet-era tractor; today, the airport is a model of cleanliness and efficiency. In 2002, the Old Town was shabby and begrimed; today, it’s become a major tourist destination, and though there is still more clean-up to do, the charms of an old Habsburg city are beginning to reveal themselves. To sit in a downtown restaurant and speak with the city’s mayor about his plans for further development, it’s easy to forget that you’re in a country at war.
But then you come to the Garrison Church of Sts. Peter and Paul.
There, Fr. Stepan Sus of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is running an urban ministry so dynamic that he has twenty other priests working with him. The church itself is full of architectural and decorative interest: built in the Baroque style in the early seventeenth century as the city’s “Jesuit Church” (and therefore modeled on the Church of the Gesù in Rome), Sts. Peter and Paul long served as a center of military chaplaincy for the Austrian and Polish troops garrisoned in Lviv. Then, in 1946, the property was seized by the Soviet regime and the church was turned into a book depository in which some two million volumes were stored. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Ukraine achieved independence, there was a fuss over ownership and it was not until 2010 that the church was deemed the property of the Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Lviv.
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