By Lisa Zengarini
The head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, has called on the faithful to celebrate this unusual Christmas so to bear witness, even in the Covid-19 pandemic, “to the most important truth of human history: that we are not alone or abandoned”.
In his Christmas Message, the Archbishop Major of Kyiv-Halič stresses that the Nativity of Jesus is a “ray of hope and joy in the midst of today’s dark fear and confusion.”
Ceaselessly proclaiming the good news
“In spite of the restrictions, challenges, and human losses we endured due to the coronavirus pandemic, together, as Church, in our families, parishes, communities, and countries, we did not cease to proclaim the good news of hope, love, and joy”, Archbishop Shevchuk notes.
This is why the faithful are called “in a special way” at Christmas this year “to bear witness before others” to the birth of Christ-God who “becomes not just a human being, but a poor human being, a person who suffers from the beginning of His earthly life”, he writes.
Reminding how God entered into history and experienced “human hunger and cold, pain and sickness, adversity, and the indifference of society,” the message stresses that: “Those who disregard the poor scorn their Creator.”
He also encourages the faithful to examine the recent Synodal Pastoral Letter of the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops, entitled “Only one thing will remain yours: that which you have given to the poor!”, saying that “in the light of the star of Bethlehem, we contemplate the face of the new-born Saviour.”
All in need of God's grace
Referring to the Covid-19 crisis, Archbishop Shevchuk remarks that we are all “equally in danger of infection,” while “a new threat of poverty hangs over all corners of the globe." We, therefore, all “need the kind of help and strength that goes beyond human abilities and power”.
For this reason, “each one of us must be open to God’s grace, which pours out on us without ceasing, even in the worst of times,” he says.
He then invites the faithful to celebrate Christmas “by acclaiming the birth of the Saviour”, where possible, “so that even in this pandemic we might bear witness to the most important truth that we are not alone or abandoned, because ‘God is with us!’” He also urges everyone to “ask for the richness of His love, which alone can restore this distressed world of ours, and grant it hope, security, and joy.”
“Solidarity with and closeness to those in need, participation in their pain and anxiety, rather than escape from the suffering that hangs over us all today: this will grant us the possibility to truly celebrate Christmas this year,” he stresses.
Finally, the Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halič sends his Christmas greetings to all the Ukrainan Greek Catholic communities in the world, with a special thought to all medical workers and front-liners, and those who are suffering physical and spiritual wounds caused by the pandemic.