Following two days of meetings with Pope Francis, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is closer to the three objectives she has set for herself: a papal visit to Ukraine, the granting of the patriarchal state to the Uniate Church, and the beatification of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who led the Church in the first half of the 20th century.
Kyiv (AsiaNews) - After the meeting of Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops with Pope Francis on 5-6 July, the Major Archbishop of Kyiv Sviatoslav Shevchuk expressed the satisfaction of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic community.
In his view, the three main desires of his Church are now close to fulfilment, namely a papal visit to Ukraine, the granting of patriarchal status to the Uniate Church, and the beatification of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who led the Church in the early part of the 20th century.
"We did not have to make final decisions at this time," Shevchuk said. "These were moments of reflection and analysis of the steps we are about to take. We are waiting for the fruits of these reflections,” and “the creation of the necessary structures and mechanisms that will lead our Church to flourish again in Ukraine and the world ".
The archbishop explicitly invited Pope Francis to visit the country, including during the informal dinner at Casa Santa Marta. The Pope promised to think about it.
Shevchuk noted that "many want to hear and see the Pope, who could soothe the wounds of the war, stop the bleeding by coming to the Ukraine.” This would be a way to act "not only on the consequences of the conflict, but also to eliminate the causes that gave rise to it", putting an end to the climate of enmity and mutual accusation between the different parts of the Ukrainian people, between Ukrainians and Russians, and between members of different Churches.
During the meeting the issue of the patriarchate was also discussed in the context of the reflection on the Church’s ecumenical dimension. According to Shevchuk, the "patriarchate is a way of existing, not just an honorary title. It is a set of mechanisms to make the Church flourish, allowing her to respond efficiently to the pastoral needs of our people.”
The Greek Catholic Church is not "a threat" to her Orthodox brothers, it is not against anyone, but it is "in favour of everyone. This mental revolution has yet to be accomplished". For this reason, new structures are needed.
According to estimates by the Foreign Ministry, every year one million people emigrate from the Ukraine, and the patriarchate needs take care of everyone, even in the countries of emigration. After all, since Soviet times, the Uniate Church has dealt with the Ukrainian diaspora all over the world, which has provided the country a good number of its clergymen, like Archbishop Shevchuk himself.
The beatification of the servant of God Andrey Sheptytsky is also of great importance. A prominent ecumenical figure in the 20th century, he was the father of the Greek Catholic revival in Ukraine as well as Russia and Belarus.
"Metropolitan Sheptytsky was the first to realise the global dimension of our Church," Shevchuk said. “When he became metropolitan, we only had three dioceses in the territory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today we have 34 dioceses all over the world, thanks first of all to his pastoral visits to every corner of the globe."
Thanks to Sheptytsky, bishops and pastors were appointed, laying the foundations for today's international structure. He was indeed one of the "prophets of ecumenism" in the early 1900s, precisely because of the special vocation of the Greek-Catholic Church, which he considered an ideal bridge between Catholics and Orthodox, between East and West.
He led the Uniate Church at stormy times, with empires ending, the Bolshevik revolution, serving sentences and imprisonment, until the time of the Nazi occupation of Ukraine.
He died before the end of the Second World War, and did not see the suppression of his Church by the Soviet regime. The rebirth of faith among Ukrainians and Greek Catholics really breathes new life into his prophecies and his hope for one and holy Church.