By Linda Bordoni
The Byzantines’ Greek-Catholic Eparchy of Mukachevo arose from the Union of Uzhhorod, which set roots in the north eastern part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire half way through the 17th century. Subsequently, the Eparchy of Mukachevo was established officially by Pope Clement XIV in 1771.
Throughout the centuries the territory, which lies in the Transcarpathia region in south-western Ukraine, has seen numerous changes in which new eparchies have been created and the territory divided.
Finally, in 1937 the Eparchy of Mukachevo became “immediately subject to the Holy See” and this year it is celebrating the 30th anniversary since the end of Soviet domination which forced the Church underground.
In his address to the pilgrims whom he received in the Vatican before the weekly General Audience, Pope Francis marked the anniversary, upholding the witness of the many Mukachevo martyrs, whom he said, “confirmed their fidelity to Christ, to the Church and to the Bishop of Rome” in the darkest moments of the community’s history.
Blessed Martyr Bishop Theodor Romzha
In particular he recalled the Blessed Martyr, Bishop Theodor Romzha, whom he described as “a tireless man who followed the example of Christ the Good Shepherd, to the point of giving his life for his sheep.”
He guided your people “with evangelical wisdom and courage,” he told them.
Pope Francis also highlighted the legacy of the ancestors of the community: “your grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, who in the intimacy of their homes, and often under the watchful eye of the hostile regime, risked their freedom and their lives.”
It is thanks to them, he said, that Christ’s truth was transmitted, offering future generations “an eloquent witness of firm, living faith”.
The Pope concluded his address inviting the members of the community, wherever they may be, to renew their personal encounter with Christ, or “at least, to make the decision to let yourselves be met by Him, to seek Him every day without interruption.”
And quoting from the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium he said “No one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord.”