By Vatican News
The meeting at the Vatican of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, called by Pope Francis, begins today. The encounter, which concludes on Saturday, calls together the Greek Catholic Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, Sviatoslav Shevchuk; the members of the Permanent Synod and the Metropolitans of the Church; and the heads of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia that are competent for the Country.
Sign of closeness
In the statement announcing the meeting, the Holy See Press Office said, “In the delicate and complex situation in which Ukraine finds itself, the Holy Father… wishes to give a sign of his closeness to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church that carries out pastoral service both at home and in various places in the world.
“This meeting will also offer a further opportunity to deepen the analysis of the life and needs of Ukraine, with the aim of identifying the ways in which the Catholic Church, and in particular the Greek-Catholic Church, can dedicate itself ever more effectively to preaching the Gospel, contributing to the support of those who suffer and promoting peace, in agreement, as far as possible, with the Catholic Church of the Latin rite and with other Churches and Christian communities.”
The humanitarian mission the Pope desires for Ukraine
Pope Francis has always had this country particularly at heart, ravaged by a conflict that has been ongoing for five years. In 2016, he promoted a humanitarian initiative for Ukraine, with an active participation of the Catholic churches in Europe and of the faithful of the other parts of the world, and with the collaboration of other confessions and international organization, to meet, in a concrete manner, the basic needs of the inhabitants of the territories struck by the war.
The prayer for peace
Pope Francis has made numerous appeals for peace in Ukraine. In his Easter message this year, the Holy Father said, “May this Easter bring comfort to the people of the eastern regions of Ukraine, who suffer from the continuing conflict. May the Lord encourage initiatives of humanitarian aid and those aimed at pursuing a lasting peace.”
Relations with the Orthodox
In January, Pope Francis met with Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine. A statement from the nunciature said that the Pope “dwelled upon the delicate conditions of the relations within the Orthodoxy, on the contribution which the Catholic Churches in Ukraine bring to the well-being of the country, on the political and social environment, particularly the need to make every possible effort in the attempts to favour peace through dialogue, for the wellbeing of the citizens and the commitments to improve the the conditions of everybody and the full exercise of religious freedom.”
Respect for international law
That same month, speaking to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis had drawn attention to the humanitarian initiative he had launched in favour of the suffering people of Ukraine: “The Church and her various institutions will pursue this mission, also in the hope of drawing greater attention to other humanitarian questions, including that of the treatment of the numerous prisoners. Through her activities and her closeness to the people involved, the Church strives to encourage, directly and indirectly, peaceful paths to the solution of the conflict, paths that are respectful of justice and law, including international law, which is the basis of security and coexistence in the entire region. To this end, the instruments that guarantee the free exercise of religious rights remain important.”
Fraternity and friendship
Ukraine was also in the Pope’s thoughts during Christmas. He prayed for the country in his Urbi et Orbi address: “May the Newborn Lord bring relief to the beloved land of Ukraine, yearning to regain a lasting peace that is slow to come. Only with a peace respectful of the rights of every nation can the country recover from the sufferings it has endured and restore dignified living conditions for its citizens. I am close to the Christian communities of the region, and I pray that they may develop relationships of fraternity and friendship.”
Cardinal Turkson in Ukraine
In November of 2018, Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, together with the under-secretary, Segundo Tejado Muñoz, undertook a humanitarian mission to Ukraine.
Meeting with the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic community in Rome
At the beginning of last year, on 28 January 2018, Pope Francis met the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Community at Basilica of Santa Sofia on the Via Boccea in Rome. During his visit, the Holy Father said, “I am here today to tell you all that I am close to you: close with my heart, with my prayers, and when I celebrate the Eucharist. There I beg the Prince of Peace that the weapons of war might be silenced. I also ask of Him that you would no longer have to make enormous sacrifices to sustain your loved ones.”