The contribution of the Churches
An important contribution to the building of peace and wellbeing in this Eastern European country, which gained independence in 1991, can also come from the Christian Churches and the realities of other religions. Inspired by the words of St. John Paul II, who during his visit to Ukraine 20 years ago called it a "laboratory of ecumenism", the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Catholic University of Lviv (UUC) seeks to create a fertile ground for cultivating dialogue between the Churches and religions so that their voices may be heard in contemporary society. Every year since 2008 the Institute has organized the Ecumenical Social Week, an international forum in which representatives of academia, churches, public authorities, charitable organizations, and the media participate to discuss and find solutions to social issues, based on the principles of the common good and the Social Doctrine of the Church.
Listening to the cry of the earth
"We urgently appeal to those in positions of social and economic, as well as political and cultural, responsibility to hear the cry of the earth and to attend to the needs of the marginalized, but above all to respond to the plea of millions and support the consensus of the world for the healing of our wounded creation." This quote from the Joint Message of Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the World Day of Prayer for Creation in 2017 inspired the 13th edition of Ecumenical Social Week, celebrated last year with the theme "Hearing the Cry of the Earth. Integral Ecology in Action," during the Year dedicated to Laudato si'. The event took place almost entirely online due to the pandemic and was organized in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the civil authorities of Lviv.
Also guiding the reflection is the conviction - expressed in Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si' - that "the majority of people living on our planet profess to be believers. This should spur religions to dialogue among themselves for the sake of protecting nature, defending the poor, and building networks of respect and fraternity." (201).
Helping the Churches make their voices heard in society
The earth unites us all
Also taking part in the conference were Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Archdeacon John Chryssavgis, environmental advisor to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.
The symphony of religions
"Ukraine and, in particular, Lviv," explains Pavlo Smytsnyuk, director of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies founded 15 years ago, "unique places from the point of view of ecumenism. On the one hand, in this land there have been many conflicts between religions and denominations, some of which continue to this day. On the other hand, Ukraine is a pluralistic country where no denomination has the majority. That's why the various faith communities must work together to make their voices heard." One of the ways to bring representatives of different denominations and religions to the same table, Smytsnyuk notes, is to talk about social issues "so that the voice of religion sounds like one symphony," so that churches and religions can contribute to development, peace and well-being.
"Ukraine survived the Chernobyl catastrophe," the theologian continues, "and now lives in a period of military conflict in the east. It is a country where the Churches and society want to get out of this vicious circle and give their contribution to other Churches, religions and societies. And for us, the support of the world community in what we do is extremely important and we are really happy to share our gifts with others."
Continuing reflection on Laudato si'
Despite the need for an online meeting due to anti-Covid measures, last year's Ecumenical Social Week dedicated to the themes of integral ecology generated great enthusiasm among the participants who represented 15 countries. Taking up their invitation and remaining within the framework of the 2015 encyclical of the Pope Francis, the Institute of Ecumenical Studies has decided to dedicate the 14th edition to the theme "Promoting the common good: towards sustainable development". Lviv will host the gathering both online and in presence from October 5 to 9, 2021.