On the occasion of the Ukranian Bishops’ visit ad Limina and pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Archbishop Major of the Ukranian Greek-Catholic Church, together with four Metropolitans and the other Eparchial and Auxiliary Bishops, presided over the Divine Liturgy for Peace in Ukraine, in the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major on Thursday afternoon.
Also concelebrating were priests in charge of looking after the numerous Ukrainian communities in Italy, together with the Head of the Office of Migrants of CEI [the Italian Episcopal Conference] Monsignor Giancarlo Perego, and the Head for the diocese of Rome, Father Pierpaolo Felicolo. Representing the Cardinal Vicar was H.E. Monsignor Matteo Zuppi.
Here is the translation of the greeting delivered by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy.
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Reverend Priests, Men and Women Religious,
Sisters and Brothers in the Lord!
This Basilica, so dear to the memory of the Eastern people at Rome, shines today with a particular light. I am not referring to the splendor of the mosaics, but to the light that is perceived in your hearts and on your faces. It is the light of one who, though exhausted and in pain, prays and hopes, and is committed daily to sowing seeds of reconciliation and peace, without ever tiring.
Living like this we in fact make the same flame burn that the Mother of God kept and nourished in her heart, accepting in docile obedience the will of the Lord announced to her by the Archangel at Nazareth and, little by little it grew accompanying the public mission of her Son, Jesus. The fire of Mary’s faith was not extinguished and continued to burn also in the midst of the thick darkness that enveloped the earth when Jesus was lifted on the Cross, and it nourished the certainty that God remains faithful to his promise of salvation also in the silence of the Sabbath, when Christ’s Body was laid in the sepulcher. Today we receive from Mary Most Holy the assurance that no stone of a human sepulcher that concentrates itself in violence, abuses, hatreds and divisions can close our heart to hope. As the Apostle John says: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith” (1 John 5:4).
1. We have prayed for peace, as the Byzantine liturgy invites us so many times to do: for the peace that comes from on High and for the salvation of our souls” (Byzantine ektenia): in fact, the first sign of God’s salvation already operating in us is that of being gathered as a people, as ecclesia, to invoke and supplicate. God snatches us from the solitude and despair that could take hold of us in face of the violence and the war that have already claimed too many victims in the beloved Ukrainian Nation, and makes us experience the strength and beauty of being Church, drawing from Christ’s charity itself, which is communicated to us in the Sacraments and which calls to be gift for others. In fact I heard yesterday with joy from your Bishops how a great part of the population has been activated in a contest of hospitality and solidarity to poorer brothers that come from regions most exposed to the conflict: may God render them merit.
2. Present here are priests responsible for the numerous Ukrainian communities in Italy: in them I greet all the faithful that have been unable to gather here today, and I thank them for the precious contribution offered to the Church and to the Italian society: we are also grateful to the Vicariate of Rome, the Pope’s diocese, which was in charge of inviting so many to today’s celebration, so that the prayer raised would be more intense and that it would be made evident that the desire for a just peace is not only the expression of a few, but is raised from the hearts of all.
3. Dear brothers in Christ, together with our Holy Father, Francis, to whom goes our affection and our prayerful remembrance, we want to be committed in every place and at all times to be architects of peace and reconciliation. In this regard, I refer to the words of the late Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky, who led the Ukrainian Church in times of great upheaval, and that His Beatitude, the Major Archbishop took up again in the letter addressed to priests last February 5: “Hatred only destroys – it has never built anything, nor will it. However, in our work we must keep ourselves from everything that might lead to hatred, and defend the people as if they were before real enemies, before persons that fight with hatred and spread hatred. Our flag is the flag of love. It never enters into alliance with the flag of any hatred. Even when it defends before a real evil of the enemy, Christian love cannot cease to be love, it cannot come close or be similar to hatred. Human love, which embraces all men without exceptions, will always be a just characteristic of Christianity; every endeavor of a genuine Christian must be characterized by it (Pastoral Letter to the Clergy “On the Social Question”).
4. May Mary Most Holy, Queen of Peace, intercede for Ukraine and for all her children who supplicating today have recourse to You! Amen.