Pope Francis greeted Ukrainian pilgrims

Friday, 29 November 2013, 00:35
“Dear Brothers and Sisters! The best way to honor St. Josaphat is to love one another, to love the Church and to serve its unity,” stated the Holy Father in his greeting to the Ukrainian pilgrims who gathered in Saint Peter’s Basilica.

On Monday, November 25, 2013, on the day of the liturgical remembrance of St. Josaphat according to the old calendar, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church under the leadership of its Father and Head, His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) marked the 50th anniversary of the placing of the relics of their brother in bone and blood, a martyr for the unity of the Church, in the main Catholic Basilica, near the grave of Saint Peter.

 After the Pontifical Divine Liturgy which His Beatitude Sviatoslav led at the Main Altar of the Vatican Basilica, Pope Francis came to greet the Ukrainian pilgrims.  His coming was greeted by the faithful by the singing of the hymn “May the name of the Lord be blessed.” and thunderous applause.  After a welcome by His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Pope Francis addressed those present.

 “Dear Pilgrims, who have arrived from Ukraine, Slava Isusu Khrystu !  [Glory to Jesus Christ]

I gladly accepted the invitation of His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), the Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych and the UGCC Synod of Bishops, to join your pilgrimage to the grave of Saint Priest Martyr Josaphat on the 50th anniversary of the transfer of his relics to this Vatican Basilica.  I am also happy to greet the delegation of the faithful of the Byzantine Rite from Belarus.

 On November 22, 1963, Pope Paul VI decided to place the remains of St. Josaphat under the altar of Saint Basil the Great, near the grave of Saint Peter.  This holy Ukrainian martyr truly accepted the monastic life according to the Basilian statute.  And he did it thoroughly, also taking care of reforming his Order, a reform which led to the founding of the Basilian Order of St. Josaphat.  Simultaneously, as a simple faithful, later as a monk and finally as Archbishop of Polotsk, he put all his efforts to the union of the Church under Peter, the King of Apostles.

 Dear Brothers and Sisters, the memory of this holy martyr reminds us of the confession of the communion of saints, of the community life among all who belong to Christ.  This is a reality which permits us to have a foretaste of eternal life, since one of the aspects of eternal life lies exactly in the joyful fraternity of all the saints.  “Everyone shall love one another as himself,” teaches Saint Thomas Aquinas – thereby rejoicing in the well-being of someone else as if were his/her own.  In this way the joy of one shall be so much greater, as will be greater the joy of all the blessed.”

 If this is the communion in the Church, then every aspect of our Christian life can be inspired by the desire to build together, cooperate and learn from one another, together to bear witness to faith.  On this road we are guided by the one who is the center of this journey, Jesus Christ, the Resurrected Lord. This search for a community moves us to understand our neighbor, to respect him/her and also to accept him and fraternally redeem him/her.

 Dear Brothers and Sisters, the best way to honor Saint Josaphat is to love one another and to love the Church and serve its unity.  In this we are supported by the brave testimonies of many martyrs of recent times who form a great wealth and are a source of great joy for your Church.

 I hope that the deep communion which you yearn to deepen every day within the Catholic Church will assist you in being the bridge of fraternity also with other Churches and church communities on Ukrainian land and everywhere where your citizens live.  May we always be led and blessed by the Lord under the care of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Josaphat!”

  Then the Pope imparted his Apostolic Blessing and asked not to be forgotten in everyone’s prayers.  Then the present hierarchs had a chance to greet the Bishop of Rome.

 His Beatitude Sviatoslav presented the Pope with an icon of Saint Josaphat, painted in the native  place of Saint Josaphat, the city of Volodymr-Volynskyi, which was brought by Bishop Josaphat (Hovera), the Exarch of Lutsk.

 In awaiting the arrival of the Holy Father, during the singing of Mnohaya Lita [Many years], UGCC Head introduced the present hierarchs, clergy, coworkers of the diplomatic corps, and thanked the pilgrims for their numerous presence.  Then an Akathist to Saint Martyr Josaphat was held.


Radio Vatican 


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