Pope Francis with His Beatitudine Sviatoslav Shevchuk Pope Francis with His Beatitudine Sviatoslav Shevchuk 

Leader of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church: Pope Francis offers unique voice for peace

In an interview with Vatican News, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, says this Easter, Christ gives them hope and certainty of a better future ahead, and expresses gratitude to Pope Francis for being a singular voice in working toward peace.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Despite the tragic ongoing war in Ukraine bringing death and destruction, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church says that as they celebrate Easter, Christ, as their source of hope and resilience, enables them to keep hope for an end to the war, and that peace, life and resurrection, will have the final word.

In an interview with Vatican Radio - Vatican News, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halyc, expressed this, noting his gratitude to Pope Francis for his constant closeness and appeals, and, in particular, for offering a unique voice on how to find peaceful solutions.

His Beatitude discusses the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Easter amid rubble and war, the timeliness of Pope Francis' warnings throughout his papacy about nuclear arms, and how to work toward peace even as their country has faced war and suffering for more than a year since Russia's invasion.


Your Beatitude, in Ukraine at Easter, believers greet each other with the words ‘Christ is risen, truly risen.’ What significance does this greeting have in the context of the war that has been going on for more than a year?

Well, for us, this greeting is not a simple greeting, but is a proclamation of the Christian faith and also of a revelation of the authenticity of our existence as Christians. I remember when back in the Soviet times, when I was a child with these greetings, I greeted a representative of the Communist Party without being aware of that. And I said to him, 'Christ is risen.' And he responded, ‘Yes, thank you. I was already informed.' But to be informed and to have a right to proclaim ‘Indeed risen,’ they are two different perspectives. And today we can share our experience from the tragic situation, tragic moments of the Ukrainian people. Christ is indeed risen. He is with us, and He is a source of our resilience and a source of our hope, hope for the future, hope that one day this war will end, and then, peace, life, and resurrection, will have the last word in our history.

His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk
His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk

The Holy Father has made countless appeals for Ukraine and to help those suffering. What has this meant to you and what value have those appeals had?

For us, it's very important that we are not abandoned, that in our sufferings, we are not alone. And the Holy Father speaks not only to Ukrainians but also on behalf of Ukrainians to the world. And each time that he is trying to announce to the world the tragedy which is happening in Ukraine, for us, his words are lifegiving. Because of the worldwide solidarity, we were able to withstand with the consequences of this war. Thanks be to God and thanks to the Holy Father, this humanitarian crisis, provoked by the war, the humanitarian tragedy did not deteriorate. Nobody in Ukraine died because of hunger, thirst, or cold. We were able to pay our assistance to those who are victims of this Russian invasion. So each prayer, each appeal of the Holy Father to the world for us, is a lifegiving message.

Pope Francis has encouraged finding peaceful solutions to the war. In your mind, do you envision a possible road to peace with an emphasis on mediation and peace-building efforts rather than arms and violence? And how so?

We pray for peace. We struggle for peace. Of course, this peace right now sounds like a miracle, like something that should be happening, but when, we do not know. There is no human prospective for an immediate cease-fire in this war. But we do believe that miracles happen. Maybe one day, we will enjoy peace in our Ukrainian land.

Throughout Pope Francis's pontificate, he has constantly warned against the dangers of nuclear arms. Why is his message particularly important at this time?

Because right now, the world again is at the edge of a nuclear confrontation. When international law doesn't work anymore, no one in the world feels secure. And which security, which argument, [do] many, many nations have today? Only nuclear weapons, nuclear powers. And that is very sad because we are witnessing how the escalation and militarization of international relationships are happening right now. And Pope Francis almost is a unique voice to the world saying, ‘Please stop. Don't use that argument as an argument in your negotiations.’ We cannot argue, with blackmailing, using nuclear power, because this fact will provoke a disaster for the whole world.

The Risen Christ first manifested Himself to women. What role do Ukrainian women, and, in particular within the Church, play in these difficult times?

Women in Ukraine are a cornerstone stone of our society. Very often, we would say that in Ukrainian culture, we have a matriarchate. So, a mother, a woman, is a person who mostly announced, proclaimed the Christian faith in Ukraine. And the second Sunday after Easter, we have a Sunday dedicated to the Myrrhbearering women.

The role of women in the mission of evangelization today in Ukraine is crucial. Almost 99% of the catechists in our communities are women, but also our clergy is mostly married, so the role of priestly wife is very important in the parish and parish community. Very often people would first approach the priest’s wife, and then him, especially in some delicate issues for women. The mother is an image of Ukraine today. A Church as a mother is something very, very important, I would say, eloquent to Ukrainian people today especially. Mother Church, mother and teacher, mother and protector, is an icon of our Church today.

Listen to the full interview with His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Ukraine:

How difficult is it, Beatitude, to transmit this faith when there is so much pain and so many deaths all around? How do you offer a message of hope and faith in the midst of such sadness at this time?

In those circumstances, we ourselves experience that the Christian message is not an idea, but is a life-giving experience. So sharing our message, we share our experience. We share our own source of hope, our own source of resilience. So people are listening to us, but looking to us: How do we ourselves incarnate this message in our own life? Very often today, we are witnessing an outstanding moment of conversion of so many people in Ukraine because they are looking for a deep meaning of those very difficult circumstances: Why it's happening to us. What should you do? Is it right, that which we are doing? And very often those messages or those questions could be responded to only if we are listening to the Word of God, and only if we are members of a community who lives that message, that good news, which we proclaim each day.

Is there anything else that you would like to add, Your Beatitude?

Well, from the bottom of our heart, from Ukraine, from the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, we would like to convey the authenticity of that message: ‘Christ is indeed risen. Indeed risen!’  Christ is with us. We do have a hope because we are participating in His Resurrection. This message, ‘Christ is risen’ is not only about Him, but is also about us, and the proclamation of the Christian hope for today.

Easter liturgies in Ukraine
Easter liturgies in Ukraine

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15 April 2023, 13:49