delegation of the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Churches and of Religious Organizations . Photo: Vatican Media

Pope Francis Says That as a Child He Served A Ukrainian Priest Before Religious Leaders of That Country

A delegation of the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Churches and of Religious Organizations went to the Vatican where they were received in private audience by the Pope.

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 25.01.2023).- On Wednesday morning, January 25, minutes before initiating the General Audience in Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father received a Delegation of the Pan-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations in a private audience. Because of the limited time available, he preferred to hand to them the address he had prepared and address them spontaneously. “I would like to listen to you, but we are slaves to the limitations of time, because at five to nine I have to begin the General Audience. I would like to listen to each one of you, but you can see the number, we cannot do it. So I ask you, please, to be brief, so that at five to nine I can be there. I am sorry, I would stay all morning with you but we too are slaves to time,” he said to them. 

The group was introduced by Orthodox Bishop Marcos. Then the Pontiff addressed them through a translator and, handing them the prepared address, but not pronounced, he said: “What you have un your hands is a text that brings together what has stirred my heart in these months of war, seeing the images of this immense tragedy. I am in dialogue with the representatives of the Ukrainian people and this enables me to feel I am with you, and to pray. I thank you for your unity: this, for me, is something great, like the children of a family – one here, another there, another over there, but when the mother is sick, they all come together. It is not so much about Jewish Ukraine, Christian Ukraine, Orthodox Ukraine, Catholic Ukraine, Islamic Ukraine . . . , no, it is about Ukraine, “Mother” Ukraine, and all together! And this shows the fabric of your race. It is an example in the face of the superficiality seen in our culture today. 

Explaining that he would not deliver the prepared speech, he said: “I had prepared an address but time cuts us short, and so, if you are not offended, I will hand it to you for it to be distributed. I am close to you. Since <I> was a child — he knows the story — a priest, Father Stefano, he had been there and I learned to serve Mass in Ukrainian, when I was eleven years old, and from that moment my warmth towards Ukraine grew. It is an old warmth that has grown and that brings me closer to you. Have no doubt, I pray for you! I hold you in my heart and ask God to have pity on this courageous populace. Thank you for your visit, thank you! I would like to greet you before leaving, one by one. Only, before we finish, I would ask you to pray, in silence, each person in his or her own way, in your own way, in silence but together for Mother Ukraine.” 

At the end of the meeting, the Pope went to Paul VI Hall for the General Audience. 

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