Pope to Ukrainian Bishops: 'Stay close to your flock'
By Lisa Zengarini
Pope Francis has urged the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishops to be shepherds of their flock and to be close to the faithful entrusted to their care, giving them courage and hope.
The Ukrainian Bishops are holding their annual Synod to discuss the theme of synodality in their Church. The meeting, running from 7-15 July, had to be moved from Kyiv to Przemysl, in Poland, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Prayers and closeness to the Ukrainian people
In a letter addressed to the Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), the Pope first of all reiterated his prayers and closeness to the Ukrainian people enduring the war waged by Russia against their country.
Recalling the recent Memorial Day of the Martyrs of Lviv, who were raised to the altars in 2001 by Pope St. John Paul II during his Apostolic Journey to Ukraine, Pope Francis remarked that the current conflict makes the circumstancees in which those priests, monks, nuns and laypeople lived and died under the Soveit regime, even clearer to us in this day.
“Today from the Heavens they protect their people who suffer," said the Pope entrusting all the Members of the Synod to these martyrs killed by the communist regime in the Soviet era.
Accompanying the faithful
Reflecting on the theme of the meeting - "Synodality and universality: experience of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church”, Pope Francis underscored that the primary objective of the synod should be “the good of the Church and of each faithful”.
“Furthermore, it must be a place of encounter and mutual help on the common path of life, in the search for new means of accompanying the faithful.”
Bringing God and hope to people
In this regard, Pope Francis reiterated that pastors, as shepherd of their flock, must be close to the faithful entrusted to their care and bring them the “living water of hope”.
The Pope said, quoting his own words to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishops during their visit to Rome in 2019, people “don’t understand” their pastors if they want to speak “only about God”; but they do undestand if pastors “do all they can to bring God to them”.
Pope Francis therefore expressed hope that the meeting may inspire the Greek Catholic Bishops in a “creative continuation” of the “extraordinary tradition of the faith of the Fathers, rooted, and sustained for generation in the People of God” of Ukraine.