UGCC Head introduced his Church to journalists accredited by the Vatican Press Center

Saturday, 20 October 2012, 20:51
A living Church, growing and effectively realizing its goal of evangelization -- thus His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), UGCC Head introduced the Church which he leads, during a briefing with journalists which took place on Monday, October 15, 2012 in the Vatican Press Center.

UGCC Head noted that although in Ukraine there are many Catholic communities, and the number of Greek-Catholics comprises about 10 percent, there are still about 40 percent of inhabitants who do not consider themselves as members of any religious community.  Therefore, the necessity of a new evangelization seems clear, as well as the need of this evangelization within the Church, only twenty years out of the underground.

As the main means of the new evangelization, capable to answer the challenges of our times, His Beatitude Sviatoslav named the family and the parish, once more emphasizing what he had said during his presentation at the Synod.  The significant and unchangeable input into the new evangelization within Ukraine’s social context, in his words, emerges from the social doctrine of the Church.  “Evan if many people do not consider themselves part of the Church they listen to its voice because it speaks about concrete things concerning community life.  It is this that grants us respect also from the side of the Orthodox, Protestants and Jews,” noted UGCC Head.

The hierarch also described the interest in Christian faith expressed by young Muslims.  The aspect which is mostly attractive to them is “Christian joy which emerges from the discovery that God is not a tyrant who demands obedience, but a Father.”  This, according to him, is the “powerful sign of the Resurrected Christ.”

Journalists touched on the issue of married clergy which according to His Beatitude Sviatoslav comprises more than 90 percent in Ukraine.  He noted, that this ancient tradition of the Eastern Church is acknowledged, for example, by brethren of the Latin Rite in the United States and Canada, expressing their understanding and support for married Greek-Catholic priests in these territories.  However, especially in Italy, the presence of married priests is still “painful to accept,” so much so, that the Conference of Bishops rejected the proposal to allow them to come to Italy to provide pastoral care to the immigrants.

“The Italian pastors still do not understand the dynamism of the Eastern Church,” stated His Beatitude Sviatoslav, adding that the situation gets more complicated by the presence of a large number of faithful who lack pastoral care.  However, he noted, “we recognize our responsibility to respect the feelings” of the local bishops since when “mutual respect is the starting point, there is always the possibility of a dialogue.”  Also, according to UGCC Head statement, it is exactly through the support of the Conferences of Bishops that “our presence is at all possible in Italy or Spain.”

He also somewhat criticized the concept proposed in these countries of “ethnic chaplaincy,” included in the social and cultural aspects which bring on the threat of assimilation.  “We await the moment when the local Church will realize that the presence of Ukrainians is a strength for the new evangelization and we can fully live, exercising our traditions,” noted His Beatitude Sviatoslav, sharing also the testimony of many bishops about the kind of influence that the presence of Ukrainian migrants has on the local secularized society.  It is enough to mention the women caretakers who lead the elderly to church or teach the children to pray.

A separate question emerges with the ecumenical dialogue and especially the relationship with the Moscow Patriarchate.  UGCC Primate described the experience of the activity of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and religious organizations that are the schools for building peace.  Referring to the relationship with the Russian Orthodox Church, he noted that “reconciliation between the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is inevitable.  I am taking on the role of the spokesman in this reconciliation, since without it we cannot move forward and therefore we will not become discouraged and will always remain ready to extend our hand.”


Radio Vatican

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