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Christmas Message of His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

‘To Celebrate Christmas Means to Fill Oneself with the Peace of Heaven and to Say No to Violence’

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, but not in the sense that He is a “person that has power and strength,” but in the sense that his power, God’s power is in the ministry, God’s strength is in boundless and disinterested love, the faithful and sacrificial love of God for His <creatures>,” says His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, in his Christmas message, which Ukraine celebrates on January 7 according to the Julian calendar.

His Beatitude’s message arrives while in Ukraine a forgotten war is still being lived, recalled by Pope Francis in his Urbi et Orbi message on Christmas Day. However, the message also looks at the internal situation in Ukraine, called soon to elect a new President, and the appeal of His Beatitude is not to look at representatives of political parties that incite violence and promote conflicts, but rather to those that promote a culture of peace — thus connecting himself to Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Peace, whose theme this year  is “Good Politics Is at the Service of Peace.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav recalls that Isaiah’s prophecy on the Mass is fulfilled in Jesus, the Prince of Peace, whom the whole of humanity awaited, because this Messiah was to re-establish “harmony in relations between persons” and

“eliminate all violence of one man against another.” After all, “God created man for peace,” and “notwithstanding his fallen nature because of sin, the human person is in continuous search for the world of peace, although he is not always able to understand it.”

The head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church stressed that “it’s no accident” that the Divine Liturgy prays for the “peace of on high for the whole world and for the good condition of the holy Churches of God.”

Jesus is truly the Prince of Peace, but not in the sense of power. And so — adds His Beatitude — “a person can live in peace and become a minister of peace for others only if he accepts in his heart, in his interior spiritual world and in his personal and social life, the Prince of Peace.”

Jesus’ birth — he continues — is “the highest manifestation of God’s omnipotence,” but His expression of strength and power doesn’t mean another’s humiliation through injustice and violence , but service to one’s neighbour in selfless love for peace.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav recalls, then, that “Christ was subjected to violence practically since His birth,” given that “King Herod called great in history, in reality was a coward: he feared for his power and felt unfortunate in face of God’s manifesting Himself in the <helpless> Child. To maintain power and the wealth associated with it, he took recourse to violence, ordering the killing of the infants of Bethlehem, children of his own people!”

However, God’s peace overcomes because “it’s always stronger than human violence,” and because “the key of true victory and of lasting peace is often in human weakness clothed with God’s power,” whereas “the strategy of the insidious attack, aggression or blind violence, as a way of affirming one’s power, is chosen by one who is impotent and pusillanimous in as much as deprived of other instruments to persuade or guide others.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav stresses that “to celebrate Christmas means to fill oneself with the peace of Heaven and to say ‘no’ to violence,” and, therefore, in accepting the Saviour we are called to “reject the culture of death which allows the killing of the innocent not yet born and encourages, as happens in some countries, the gravely ill or the elderly to shorten their life with the pretext of the so-called ‘sweet death,’ which is none other than a challenge against God and a crime against the sanctity and inviolability of human life.”

The head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church exhorts not “to permit that blind physical or moral violence become  a means of political struggle,” because “the representatives of political parties that promote violence and incite conflicts are, in reality, pusillanimous <beings> who will never be able to pursue the common good of our people.

In view of the forthcoming Ukrainian Presidential elections, Major Archbishop Shevchuk invites to “support those that go to power not to govern but to serve, and who have the strength to resist violence, affirming God’s just and lasting peace.”

Looking at the war in Ukraine, His Beatitude highlights that “as defenders of the homeland do in Eastern Ukraine,” so all are called to oppose “foreign aggression with the sacrifice of our love, true solidarity with the victims of aggression, resistance in prayer with which we invoke at the same time the peace of God in our land, in our families and hearts!”

Finally, His Beatitude sends good wishes to all the families, to all those that work far from home and, in particular, “to our military men who are the defenders of peace and the victors of the war,” to the prisoners of war and the prisoners of conscience, to the wounded in battle cared for in hospitals and to the “homes where grief-stricken Ukrainians weep over the loss of their dear ones because of the war.”

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