Thursday, November 9, 2017

Greetings for the Pontifical Ukrainian College

At 11:40am, in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father, Pope Francis received in audience the community from the Pontifical Ukrainian College of Saint Josaphat in Rome.

Speech of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to students from the
Pontifical Ukrainian College

Dear brothers and sisters, may Jesus Christ be praised!
Нехай хвалять Ісуса Христа

I greet Cardinal Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and His Excellency, Cyril Vasil', SJ, Secretary of that same Congregation, who is an alumnus of your College.  With all my heart, I thank your Rector for his words of introduction.

Our meeting takes place 85 years after the construction of your College on the Gianicolo Hill, a wish expressed by Pope Pius XI.  He saw himself as a promotor of an initiative that demonstrated the special and concrete care of the Successor of the Apostle Peter for the faithful of the Church who had come from various places of suffering and persecution, who in this way could feel like beloved brothers here in Rome, at home and growing together, preparing themselves for the apostolic mission as deacons and priests.  During the years of his pontificate, Pius XI had to face many challenges, but he always raised his voice to firmly defend the faith, the Church's freedom and the dignity of every human person.  He clearly condemned, in speeches and in letters, the atheistic and inhumane ideologies that caused such blood letting during the twentieth century.  He pointed out their contradictions by pointing to the Church, the main path of the gospel, also put into practice in the search for social justice, an indispensable dimension of the fully human dimension of peoples and nations.  As future priests, I invite you to study toe social Doctrine of the Church, so that you may mature in discernment and judgment about the social realities in which you are being called to serve.

Even in our time, the world is wounded by war and violence.  In particular, in your dear Ukrainian nation, from where you have come and where you plan to return at the completion of your studies in Rome, people are experiencing the drama of war, which is causing great suffering especially in affected areas, making them even more vulnerable as winter's trials begin.  And the strong aspiration to justice and peace, which has no room for any form of abuse, social or political corruption, realities which are far too often endured by the poor.  God supports and encourages those who are committed to achieving a society that is increasingly just and equitable.  These poor ones are supported through the concrete commitment of the Church, believers and all people of good will.

To you, seminarians and priests from the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church, these challenges can sometimes seem to be beyond your reach; let us remember the words of the Apostle John: I am writing to you young people, for you have overcome the Devil ... and the word of God remains within you (1 Jn 2:13-14).  By loving and proclaiming the Word, you will become true pastors of the communities entrusted to your care, and lamps to illuminate their hearts and your homes, whether or not you prepare to live priestly celibacy, according to the tradition of your Church's tradition.

From the Gianicolo Hill, you can look out on the beautiful panorama of Rome, and perhaps a few days ago, after a thunderstorm, you contemplated the rainbow that appeared when the sun shone through the densest clouds.  So, I invite you to ensure that your heart is always open to wide horizons which have the scope of the entire world, where many brothers and sisters from the Ukraine have gathered throughout the past centuries.  Love and maintain your traditions, but avoiding every form of sectarianism.  And always care for - both at home and abroad - the dream of God's covenant with humanity, the bridges which, like an ark of light above the clouds, reconciles the heavens with the earth and challenges everyone to learn to love one another and to respect one another, to lay down their arms, wars and other forms of oppression.

If you walk in this way and teach others to do the same, especially in fundamental ecumenical dialogue, I’m certain that they will smile on you from the heavenly homeland and will sustain all the Bishops and priests – some formed in your College – who gave their lives or who suffered persecution because of their fidelity to Christ and to the Apostolic See. And above all the All Holy Mother of God, Mary Most Holy will rejoice, so venerated in your national Shrine of Zarvanytsya  She wants the priests of her Son to be as lighted torches in the night of vigil in that Shrine, remembering all, especially the poor and the suffering, and also those that do evil and sow violence and destruction, so that the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone (Isaiah 9:1).

I also keep and venerate a small Ukrainian icon of Our Lady of Tenderness, a gift of your Major Archbishop when we were together in Buenos Aires. And when I remained here, I had it brought to me. I pray to her every day. I accompany you with my blessing, invoking peace and ecumenical harmony for Ukraine. And I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me. Have a good walk!

And I don’t want to end without remembering a person that did me good when I was in my final elementary class, in the year 1949. The majority of you weren’t born! It is Father Stephen Chmil, then consecrated Bishop hiding here in Rome from the then Major Archbishop. He celebrated Mass there, there wasn’t a close Ukrainian community, and there were some who helped him. I learned to serve the Mass in the Ukrainian rite from him. He taught me everything. I had to help him twice a week. This did me good, because that man spoke of the persecutions, the sufferings, and the ideologies that persecuted the Christians. Then he taught me to open myself to a different liturgy, which I always keep in my heart because of its beauty. When I was in Buenos Aires, Shevchuk asked me for testimonies to open the process of canonization of this Bishop ordained in secret. I wished to remember him today because it’s justice to thank you for the good he did for me. Thank you.
© Libreria Editrice Vaticano

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