The Head of the UGCC: We hope that this visit is only the first step, a good sign of your future visitation to Ukraine

Sunday, 28 January 2018, 20:57
Confirmation of the Pope's visit became a wonderful news for us. Our people regard you as a true messenger and builder of peace, peace which is real and fair. Peace, which is longed for so much in our country, which has been suffering from the Russian aggression for four years already and has been going through the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe after the Second World War.

This was said by the Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church His Beatitude Sviatoslav to the Holy Father Pope Francis on January 28, 2018 AD at the Pro-cathedral  of St Sophia in Rome, where the Holy Father arrived in order to meet with the Ukrainian migrants in Italy.

"This is a real war," said the Primate to the Holy Father, "which has claimed lives of thousands of killed and wounded and forced millions of people out of their homes. This is the war, which is forgotten by the international community, however it brings new  losses every day, caused by military battles, hunger and cold, as well as cruel indifference on the part of the powers that be."

The Pope paid a visit to the Cathedral of St Sophia on the invitation of His Beatitude Sviatoslav. "With great pleasure on behalf of the Ukrainian  community in Italy, Ukraine and the whole world, I heartily greet You at this symbolic Ukrainian basilica of St Sophia in Rome. We greet You with open heart, and feel warmed by the fatherly love of our father, Holy Father, the Apostolic Successor  to St Peter,"with such words the Head of the UGCC welcomed Pope Francis.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav told the spiritual leader of Catholics that officially today in Italy there are about 200 thousand Ukrainian citizens, a third of whom – younger than thirty years old. In fact, if to take into account unregistered people, this number will be twice as large. Our faithful in Italy make 145 communities, they are spread all over the country, and every Sunday around 17 thousand people gather for the Divine Liturgy; on big holidays this number exceeds 70 thousand people. Pastoral ministry under the lead of Bishop Dionisij  (Liakhovych), Apostolic Visitor for Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Italy, is performed by 65 priests, who were accepted by various dioceses of Latin rite. However, today not all Ukrainian migrants are under the pastoral care.

"Our Pastoral Center," went on the Head of the UGCC, "which is located at the rectorium of the pro-cathedral  and subjected to the Roman vicariate, provides pastoral care for the faithful from Rome and its suburbs. The community primarily consists of single women, mothers, grandmothers, who work in Italian families, looking after the sick or elderly. There are many young families with children, who settled in Italy for permanent living or are going through the stabilization process, and also there are families who came from Ukraine to treat children. There are many young people who study and work at various universities in Rome.

At the Cathedral there is a catechetic school for children, youth and adults, as well as various societies of laymen, among which: religious society "Saint Sophia", a praying community "Mothers in Prayer" and others. They all perform an important mission of social ministry, providing humanitarian aid to immigrants in Italy (e.g. regularly collect money for children's treatment, help overcome the catastrophe in the Motherland, long to alleviate the sufferings of victims of the war in Ukraine, etc.) At the cathedral there is also the Ukrainian Catholic University, which performs important academic and research work.

"Cathedral of St Sophia in Rome  − is special and symbolic for all our Church. At the end of the sixties it was built by the Cardinal Josyph Slipyj, our  Patriarch and confessor of faith. During 18 years he was in the Soviet concentration camps. After release in 1963, he showed a desire to build this sanctuary, which is not only the cathedral of our Church in Rome, but first of all a memorial, which doesn't allow to forget about numerous Christian churches, destroyed in the Soviet Union, about millions of victims of nazi and  communist persecutions," emphasized the Primate .

 The hierarch told that for many years the crypt of this basilica  was the only place, where families could commemorate and pray for their perished relatives, not knowing, where the  latter had been buried.

Among them  − blessed martyr  Omelian Kovch, a married priest, who was executed by nazists at the concentration camp  Majdanek (Poland), for having saved numerous Jews  persecuted during the Holocaust. In 2001, he was beatified by the holy Pope John Paul II during his historical visit to Ukraine, аnd later proclaimed the patron of the priests of our Church as   her authentic image.

"In memory of this witness of faith, my predecessor Cardinal  Lubomyr (Husar) established a high award, given to those people who, in the contemporary world torn apart by  inhuman ideologies and wars, are building bridges for  rapprochement   of different churches, religions and nations. It is here, in Italy, that we want our Church, through her faithful and pastors, to continue  what Blessed Omelian Kovch had been doing. Yesterday at this cathedral took place a solemn  awarding ceremony. The members of the committee and persons who had the honor of receiving the awards, are here with us today," said His Beatitude Sviatoslav.

"The fact," noted the Head of the UGCC, "that here, in the crypt  of the Cathedral, You, Holy Father, commemorate the memory of Your teacher in Argentina, a Salesian, Bishop Stepan Chmil', who reposed in the opinion of holiness, is a gift of Divine Providence for us. According to your evidence, Holy Father, it is through the personality of  Bishop Stepan Chmil' You learned about the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, about the persecutions which she endured but, nevertheless, remained faithful to the Bishop of Rome, and resurrected in God's grace on the native land  25 years ago."

"We thank You for remembering about our people in your prayers, for the humanitarian action "Pope for Ukraine." Thank You for awakening the conscience of the European continent, making it more sensitive to the poor, those who suffer, migrants and victims of injustice. Thank You for becoming a messenger of Christ's Good News for us,  for proclaiming salvation to those in despair. Thank You for having visited us here, in Rome. We hope that this visit is only the first step, a good  augury for Your future visitation to Ukraine," expressed gratitude His Beatitude Sviatoslav to Pope Francis.


The UGCC Department for Information  

 

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