Pontiff Greets New Leader of Ukrainian Church

Ecumenical Hopes Mark Beginning of Archbishop Schevchuk

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is assuring his prayers for the new head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Pope greeted the major archbishop at the end of the general audience Wednesday.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Schevchuk, 40, was installed last Sunday. He had been the apostolic administrator of the Eparchy of Santa María del Patrocinio in Argentina.

“I assure you of my constant prayer, so that the Most Holy Trinity will grant an abundance of goods, confirming the beloved Ukrainian nation in peace and concord,” the Pope told him.

The Holy Father continued: “Beatitude, the Lord has called you to the service and guidance of this noble Church, part of that people that more than a thousand years ago received baptism at Kiev. I am certain that, illumined by the action of the Holy Spirit, you will preside over your Church, guiding her in faith in Jesus Christ according to your own tradition and spirituality, in communion with the See of Peter.”

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has suffered for its communion with Rome. Under Soviet rule, the Church was disbanded and joined to the Russian Orthodox Church. But many Catholics continued to live their faith under ground.

Archbishop Schevchuk was elected by the synod of the Church on March 23. As stipulated by the Code of Canon Law of the Eastern Churches, his appointment requires the recognition of communion with the universal Church granted by the Pope, which was given him March 25.

Representatives of the three Orthodox Churches of Ukraine were at the enthronement service Sunday. The majority of Ukrainians are Orthodox, separated into three Churches, one united to the Russian Orthodox Church, another under the patriarch of Kiev, and a third, the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Archbishop Schevchuk greeted each of the representatives and has affirmed his hopes that his ministry will further rapprochement between the Churches, such that “the difficult period in our relationship remains in the past.”

Patriarch Gregorios III Laham, patriarch of the Greek Catholic Melkite Church, was also at the enthronement liturgy.

He noted his belief that his Church and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church “are both called to carry out a very significant role in ecumenical work, since they are the two biggest Byzantine Rite Churches in full communion with Rome.”

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