(Saint Sophia Association/UGCC Information Resource) On Monday, February 23, at the Vatican, His Beatitude Sviatoslav [Shevchuk], Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, held a press conference for representatives of international publications who are accredited with the Apostolic See. The moderator of the meeting with journalists was Fr. Federico Lombardi, [S.J.], the press secretary of Pope Francis. The theme of the meeting was: “The Pastoral Ministry of the UGCC in conditions of war.”
In his speech to the journalists, His Beatitude Sviatoslav summarized the ad limina visit of the Ukrainian bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church that took place last week in the Eternal City. The Head of the UGCC indicated “that this visit was an opportunity for the hierarchy of our Church to convey to the Holy Father the pain of the Ukrainian people and to pray at the tombs of the Apostles [Peter and Paul] for peace in our country.”
“In communicating with Pope Francis, we told him about the fact that Ukraine is the victim of the aggression of a neighboring country. This is not about a civil war within our country, but rather about an outright although undeclared war against the Ukrainian people,” His Beatitude Sviatoslav said. He also pointed out that the Holy Father listened with great compassion to reports about the dimensions of the humanitarian catastrophe that Ukrainian society is experiencing. The Head of the UGCC also related the Holy Father’s words in this regard: “I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you and am at your service.” “These words of the Pope explained for me the profound meaning of one of the Holy Father’s titles: ‘Servant of the servants of God’,” His Beatitude Sviatoslav commented, and he added that “the words of the Bishop of Rome reassured us that our Church is going in the right direction—being close to its flock.”
The Head of the UGCC also told journalists about the pastoral ministry of the UGCC in conditions of war and the social work of various charitable organizations that are offering aid to the refugees and to those who have been wounded in the war. “Today almost 80% of Ukrainian society is involved in various sorts of volunteer activity. People join together, helping one another, regardless of religious affiliation,” and this, according to His Beatitude Sviatoslav, “is genuine, practical ecumenism. Religious peace, which we have succeeded in preserving in our society, is a great treasure for us.” The hierarchs of the UGCC also turned to the Holy Father asking him to contribute toward overcoming this humanitarian catastrophe with the assistance of the international community.
Responding to questions from journalists about the Pope’s remarks concerning respect for international law, His Beatitude Sviatoslav commented: “When the Apostolic See speaks about the necessity of observing international law, it is calling for respect of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. If a neighboring country makes so bold as to annex the Crimea, it violates any and all norms of international law.”
(Report by the Press Service of the Saint Sophia Association, posted at UGCC Information Resource. Translated by Michael J. Miller.)
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