Leader of Ukraine's Greek Catholics to step down

Kiev, Ukraine - The leader of Ukraine's Greek Catholic Church and a long-standing critic of the government announced Thursday he is stepping down because of his age.

Lubomyr Husar, 77, held the title of major archbishop of Kiev-Galicia. He was a cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church, which exercises authority over the self-governing Greek-Catholic Church.

Greek Catholics follow the Eastern Orthodox ritual but are loyal to the pope.

"I no longer have the health to manage everything," Husar said. "It is time to make way for some one with greater strength."

Pope Benedict XVI has accepted Husar's resignation, according to a Vatican statement.

A synod of bishops from the worldwide Greek Catholic faith will be convened to select Husar's replacement.

The Greek Catholic community is the world's largest separate, self-governing church that recognizes the pope's authority.

The faith has some 4.2 million followers, most living in western Ukraine, the US and Canada.

Husar's family emigrated from Ukraine in 1944 shortly before the Red Army conquest. He spent his early church career in the US and Italy.

He returned to Ukraine in 1994, giving up his US citizenship. He was an outspoken critic of government corruption in the 1990s. He became head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 2000.