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Pope Francis’ Address to Ukrainian Bishops on Their Ad Limina Visit

“The Holy See Is at Your Side and Also that of International Entities to Make Your Rights, Your Concerns and the Just Evangelical Values that Motivate You, Understood”

At 12:30 today, Pope Francis met in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Vatican Palace with the Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church; the Bishop of Mukachevo of the Byzantine Rite and the Bishops of the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference, received this morning in separate audiences on the occasion of their Visit “ad Limina Apostolorum.”

The Holy Father gave his address to the Prelates in three original autographed copies, as there are three ecclesiastical jurisdictions in Ukraine. The following is a translation of the Pope’s address.

* * *

Your Beatitude, Lord Archbishop,

Dear Brother Bishops,

I welcome you in this house, which is also your house. And you know this well, because the Successor of Peter has always received with fraternal friendship the Brothers of Ukraine, country that, rightfully, is considered borderland between the heirs of Vladimir and Olga and those of Adalbert and of the great Carolingian missions, as well as those that refer to the Holy Apostles of the Slavs, Cyril and Methodius. And even earlier, there are the traditions, documented in part, which mention the Apostle Andrew and the two Martyr Popes Saint Clement and Saint Martin I. You are welcome, very beloved.

With care I learned about your problems, which are not few, as well as about your pastoral programs. We entrusted them with confidence to the Mother of God and our Mother, who watches over all with tender love.

As a country, you find yourselves in a situation of grave conflict, which is being protracted for several months and continues to claim numerous innocent victims and to cause great suffering to the entire population. In this period, as I have assured you on many occasions directly and through Cardinal Envoys, I am particularly close to you with my prayer for the deceased and for all those affected by the violence, with prayer to the Lord that He may soon grant peace and with the appeal, to all the parties concerned, that the agreements reached by common accord be implemented and that the principle of international legality be respected, in particular, that the truce recently signed be observed and that all other commitments be implemented, which are conditions to avoid the renewal of hostilities.

I know the historical problems that have marked your land and are still present in the collective memory. They are questions that, in part, have a political basis, and to which you are not called to give a direct response, but there are also socio-cultural realities and human dramas that await your direct and positive contribution.

What is important in such circumstances is to listen carefully to the voices that come from the land, where the people live who are entrusted to your pastoral care. Listening to the people, you make them solicitous of the values that characterize them: encounter, collaboration, the capacity to resolve controversies — in a few words: the search for a possible peace. You fertilize this ethical patrimony with charity, the divine love that gushes from the heart of Christ. I know well that, at the local level, you have specific agreements and practices among you, heirs of two legitimate spiritual traditions — the Oriental and the Latin –, as well as with the other Christians present among you. This beyond being a duty is also an honor that must be recognized.

At the national level, you are full citizens of your country, and therefore you have the right to expose, also jointly, your thought about their destinies. Not in the sense of promoting a concrete political action, but in the indication and reaffirmation of the values that constitute the coagulating element of Ukrainian society, persevering in the tireless search for concord and the common good, despite the grave and complex difficulties faced. The Holy See is at your side, also at that of international entities, to make your rights, your concerns and the just evangelical values that motivate you, understood. Moreover, it is searching to see in what ways it can meet the pastoral necessities of those ecclesiastical structures that also find themselves facing new juridical questions.The crisis triggered off in your country has had, as is understandable, grave repercussions in the life of families. To this is added the consequences of that badly understood sense of economic freedom that has enable the formation of a restricted group of persons that have enriched themselves enormously to the detriment of the great majority of the citizens. The presence of such a phenomenon has unfortunately also polluted, in different degrees, the public institutions. This has generated an iniquitous poverty in a generous and rich land.

Do not tire of making present to your fellow citizens the considerations that the faith and your pastoral responsibility suggest to you. The sense of justice and of truth that, before being political is moral, and this task is also entrusted to your responsibility as Pastors. The more you are free ministers of the Church of Christ, all the more, though in your poverty, will you be defenders of the families, of the poor, of the unemployed, of the weak, of the sick, of the elderly pensioners, of the invalid, of the dispersed.

I encourage, with the grace of God, to renew your zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel in the Ukrainian society, and to support one another in this with active collaboration. You can always have the look of Christ, who saw the abundance of the harvest and prayed to the Lord to send the laborers (Cf. Matthew 9:37-38). This means to pray and work for vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life and, at the same time, it means to take care attentively to the formation of the clergy, of the men and women religious, at the service of a more profound and organic knowledge of the faith within the People of God.

In addition, I would like to give you a further reflection regarding relations among you, brothers in the Episcopate. I know the complex historical issues that weigh on your mutual relations, as well as some aspects of a personal character.

The fact remains indisputable that in both Episcopates there are Catholics and Ukrainians, though in the diversity of rites and traditions. It hurts me, personally, to hear that there are misunderstandings and wounds. There is need of a doctor, and he is Jesus Christ, whom you both serve with generosity and your whole heart. You are one body and, as Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI said in the past, I exhort you, in my turn, to find between you the way to receive one another and to support one another generously in your apostolic endeavors.

The unity of the Episcopate, in addition to giving good witness to the People of God, renders an inestimable service to the Nation, be it on the cultural and social plane, be it, especially, on the spiritual plane. You are united in the fundamental values and you have in common the most precious treasures: the faith and the People of God. Therefore, I see as of supreme importance the joint reunions of the Bishops of all the Churches sui iuris present in Ukraine. Always be generous in talking between brothers!

Whether as Greek-Catholics or as Latin Rite [Catholics] you are children of the Catholic Church, which in your land also was subjected for a long period to martyrdom. May the blood of your witnesses, who intercede for you from Heaven, be the ultimate reason that pushes you to a true communion of hearts. Unite your strengths and support one another, making of historical issues a reason for sharing and unity. Well rooted in the Catholic communion, you will also be able to carry forward with faith and patience the ecumenical commitment, that unity and cooperation may grow among all Christians.

I am certain that your decisions, in agreement with the Successor of Peter, will be able to take charge of the expectations of all your people. I invite you all to govern the Communities entrusted to you, ensuring as much as possible your presence and your closeness to the priests and the faithful.

I hope that you will be able to have respectful and profitable relations with the public Authorities. I exhort you to be attentive and solicitous to the poor: they are your richness. You are Pastors of a flock entrusted to you by Christ; be always well aware of this, also in your internal organs of self-government. They are always understood as instruments of communion and of prophecy. In this connection, I hope that your intentions and your actions will always be oriented to the general good of the Churches entrusted to you. In this may you be guided, as always, by love of your Communities, in the same spirit that sustained the Apostles, of whom you are the legitimate successors. May you be supported in your work by the memory and intercession of so many Martyrs and Saints, which the grace of the Lord Jesus aroused among you. May the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin reassure you in your journey of encounter with Christ who comes, reinforcing your resolutions of communion and collaboration. And, while I ask you to pray for me, I impart affectionately a special Apostolic Blessing upon you, upon your Communities, and upon the dear population of Ukraine.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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