First steps of pastoral care of the UGCC in the Holy Land

Saturday, 26 February 2011, 18:41
On behalf of His Beatitude Lubomyr and with the blessing of Bishop Josyph (Milian), the head of the Pastoral and Missionary Department (PMD) of the UGCC, Rev. Vasyl Potochniak (the executive secretary of the PMD) was on a working visit to Israel from 12 to 21 February. The purpose of the visit was to get acquainted with the pastoral needs of the faithful of the UGCC who work there as migrant workers or obtained permanent residence with their families.

On behalf of His Beatitude Lubomyr and with the blessing of Bishop Josyph (Milian), the head of the Pastoral and Missionary Department (PMD) of the UGCC, Rev. Vasyl Potochniak  (the executive secretary of the PMD) was on a working visit to Israel from 12 to 21 February. The purpose of the visit was to get acquainted with the pastoral needs of the faithful of the UGCC who work there as migrant workers or obtained permanent residence with their families.

During the visitation, Rev. Vasyl has celebrated the Divine Liturgy for our faithful in the city of Haifa along with Rev. Rastislav Dvorovy, a Slovakian priest –biritualist (a great admirer of the Byzantine liturgical spirituality and Ph.D. student of the Pontifical Oriental Institute) who is fluent in Ukrainian and gathers together our people. Ukrainian church community of about 50 people every Sunday for over a year and half has been praying in Melkite Greek Catholic church in Haifa (10 Pal-Yam St.). During this period the church community has created a website (www.haifagrcath.net) and tries to provide for pilgrims from Ukraine with moral support and information (tel. 972 / 54.347.7874, 972 / 052.548.5962). Approximately once a month our church community is joined by the faithful of other nationalities, namely Moldovans, Russians, Romanians, to organize a pastime with a priest or to visit holy places. Rev. Vasyl and Rev. Rastislav had a meeting with Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Akka, Haifa, Nazareth and all Galilee, Elias Shakur, who expressed his willingness to accept and support a Ukrainian Greek Catholic  priest for regular service to our faithful and to grant church buildings to our communities. "During the meeting with the Melkite Greek Catholic Coadjutor Bishop of Jerusalem, Josef Tserei, one could also sense a desire to help the faithful of the UGCC with providing a priest and church buildings. Thanks to this bishop we also found a  Greek Catholic church in Tel Aviv - Yaffo (Yefet Street), where on March 13 Rev. Rastislav is to celebrate the first Divine Liturgy for the newly formed community of the UGCC "- informs Fr. Vasyl Potochniak. At one of the meetings in Bat-Jama our faithful has thanked the leaders of the UGCC for their help in organizing the Ukrainian church community near Tel Aviv. The words of gratitude addressed to the Synod of Bishops and the Head of the UGCC were also expressed by bishops of Greek-Catholic and Latin Churches. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Antonio Franko expressed gratitude to the leadership of the UGCC for not forsaking its faithful abroad and for trying to provide them with spiritual care all over the world. According to the Nuncio, spiritual care of the Ukrainians in the Holy Land requires a thorough study. Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fouad Twal, assured support in establishing and leading UGCC communities in the whole territory of Israel. Christian solidarity and support was also expressed by Rev. David Neuhaus, patriarchal vicar for Hebrew speaking catholic communities in Israel, as well as Franciscan and Dominican Fathers (among the last ones - one priest comes from Ternopil region). Through the efforts of Fr. Rastislav and with the support of Vadim Sokolov from Nathan,  a PMV representative was allowed to visit holy places, to hear a touching prayer of Ukrainian pilgrims who come every week in hundreds to the Holy Land  to talk with the Lord.

Pastoral and Missionary Department of the UGCC

  Information: According to statistics presented by the Consul General of Ukraine in Haifa, Mr. Igor Turchyn, from the mid 70's about 700 thousand Ukrainian citizens, mostly Jews, has left from Ukraine to Israel. Since Ukrainian Independence, over 300 thousand people have moved, many of them are Ukrainians married to Jews or their relatives (the third generation). In the last case, these people are still baptized Ukrainians who need spiritual as well as patriotic support. Thus, opening Greek Catholic churches  is for them like a real island of spirit and native language.
Currently there are also Ukrainian migrant workers (around 10 thousand) residing in Israel. According to various sources, about 5 thousand Greek Catholics live in Israel. Ukrainians belong to Russian-speaking community organizations as they do not have their own organizations.

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