By Christopher Wells
The solemn enthronement of Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski as the second Eparch of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London took place on Saturday.
The ceremony had originally been planned for 7 April (the feast of the Annunciation on the Julian calendar), with the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk scheduled to preside. However, due to the restrictions in place to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus, new arrangements had to be made.
In consultation with the Major Archbishop, the decision was made to move the enthronement forward, and the local Latin Ordinary, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, was asked to preside at the ceremony.
In the presence of saints and angels
In view of the extraordinary circumstances, the enthronement took place in the Cathedral with a minimal number of people present. In his remarks during the Liturgy, Cardinal Nichols noted that “This cathedral might seem empty, but we know that in every act of worship angels and saints are present… This gives us the opportunity to understand the hidden work of the power of the Holy Spirit, which is capable of overcoming every physical separation and distance, and which we are going to have to live for some time now”.
Bishop Kenneth spoke by phone with Vatican News, following the enthronement. “It was a very different experience, certainly unique, but I think also the right way to do this”, he said. “It also gave me the feeling that we are going back to the basics of our Christian beliefs”.
He said the ceremony reminded him of his time at Vatican Radio, when he would celebrate the Divine Liturgy in a small chapel with few participants. “But we knew that our service was being broadcast throughout the world, and especially to [Soviet] Ukraine, where perhaps at that time people were not able to go to churches”, he said. “And so that was the mindset that I had, was that even though there aren’t many people in the cathedral, there were probably hundreds if not thousands joining us through modern means of communication, through livestreaming”.
Bishop Kenneth said, “In that sense, I realized that is the new reality of my pastoral ministry here as a shepherd in the United Kingdom”.
United in a spirit of prayer
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus emergency Bishop Kenneth recognized that he would not be able to immediately visit the priests and faithful of the Eparchy as he had originally planned. “I’m not sure when we’ll be able to start travelling throughout the United Kingdom”, he said. Noting that this was the first Sunday that the faithful would not be able to gather in their churches, the bishop said, “In many ways it’s a sad day, because how can we have our churches not available to our faithful?” But he encouraged them to join together in “a spirit of prayer”, especially by means of social media, noting that the cathedral, as well as other parishes, were livestreaming services.
At the beginning of his ministry as Eparch for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic community in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Bishop Kenneth spoke about his priorities in these exceptional times. He said it is important to assure one another of God’s love, saying that, although many things have changed, and many things are no longer permitted, we should also think about things that we are still able to do. “We are still able to pray”, he said. “We’re still able to show compassion, charity, and love to each other”.
Bishop Kenneth said, “I think that as the shepherd here, what I need to be doing is to assure first of all my clergy that they’re loved, that they’re trusted, and that they, in turn, have a great duty to share that love and that trust with their parishioners, and to let them know the good news that Jesus loves them, and that there is salvation, and that this whole situation is in God’s hands”.
You can watch the ceremony of Bishop Kenneth's enthronement in this video, provided by the Eparchy of the Holy Family of London:
The Eparchy is also livestreaming services including the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified gifts (Wednesday) and the Divine Liturgy (Sunday). You can find more information, and follow along with the liturgy in "a spirit of prayer", by going to the Facebook page of the Cathedral of the Holy Family.