“Through his blood, Saint Josaphat sealed the unity of the Kyiv Church with the successors of the Apostle Peter…” UGCC Head in Rome

Thursday, 28 November 2013, 01:00
Fifty years ago today in Saint Peter’s Basilica, the historical Second Vatican Council, headed by the now Blessed Pope John XXIII. It was then that the Church Fathers in a moving way were addressed “from beyond the Iron Curtain” by the Ukrainian Greek-Cathokic Church, which was then known as “silent.”

It “spoke” to the whole world when Patriarch Josyf Slipyi, released from the Stalin concentration camps, arrived at the Ecumenical Council.  A Church which was considered by many as “extinquished” --  “shone” with the glory of its martyrs for the unity of Christ’s Church, when 50 years ago the holy relics of Saint Martyr Josaphat Kuntsevych, the Archbishop of Polotsk, were transferred  to Saint Peter’s Basilica.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) UGCC Head stated this  on November 23, 2013 on the feast of Saint Martyr Josaphat (Kuntsevych), UGCC Archbishop of Polotsk in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

A Pontifical Mass at the Main Altar of the Vatican Basilica on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the transfer of the relics of Saint Josaphat to this Basilica was celebrated with the personal permission  of  the Roman Pope Francis.  UGCC Head led the Liturgy; concelebrants were: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches; members of UGCC Synod of Bishops;  Bishop Milan (Shashik), GCC Eparch of Mukachevo; representatives of other sui juris Churches and those of the Apostolic See; as well as  close to 200 priests among whom were monks of the Basilian Order of Saint Josaphat, headed by  Rev. Heneziy Viomar, OSBM.

Also, as  UGCC Major Archbishop mentioned in his sermon, this year  marks 390 years  since the martyrdom of Saint Josaphat.  According to him, the significance of Saint Martyr Josaphat for Slavic peoples and the whole Universal Church  was characterized by Pope Pius XI in his encyclicalEcclesiam Dei 90 years ago on November 12, 1923 on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of his martyrdom.  “He is justly acknowledged as the glory of Eastern Slavs and their support because probably no one else has glorified their name to such a degree as he, and no one else helped them more on their road towards salvation as did their Pastor and Apostle, who also, above all, shed his blood for the unity of the Holy Church.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav is convinced that Saint Josaphat is a martyr for the unity of Christ’s Church because by his blood “he sealed the unity of the Kyiv Church with the successor of Apostle Peter – a visible sign and an immovable foundation of this unity.”  “Therefore, it is  totally obvious to us today that in the eyes of the fathers of Vatican Council II, this, our saint, was a sign of the times -- a sign that it was time to re-think the role and the mission of the Eastern Catholic Churches  to discover this unity for which he sacrificed his life.  It is here, from the grave of Saint Peter under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that the all-Church effort to unite Christians in the contemporary world began, an effort which we today call “ecumenism” he explained.

It is noteworthy that this day in front of the relics of this saint, near the grave of St. Apostle Peter, UGCC in the presence of the representative of the Holy Father, UGCC Synod of Bishops, clergy and monasticism and numerous pilgrims we ceremoniously conclude the Year of Faith.  “In experiencing this granted by God and the Church Year, we attempted to strengthen our faith in God among the challenges of today’s secularized world, to testify once again that it is an invaluable treasure which we have received from  our ancestors – parents and teachers of faith -- and we have the obligation to pass on it in all of its fullness to the coming generations,” added the Church Head.

In conclusion, His Beatitude Sviatoslav greeted all who came as a pilgrim to the Eternal City and especially the pilgrims from the Volyn lands, from the city of Volodymyr –Volynskyi, the birthplace of  Josaphat as well as the pilgrims from Belarus, a country, which this Saint Martyr blessed with his own blood.

“May the Blessed Virgin Mary, glorified in the Zhytomyr icon, which St. Josaphat so loved and which over centuries has been venerated here in Rome, forever pray together with us for our Church before the Altar of the Almighty,” wished UGCC Head at the end.

Every participant of the Liturgy received a memento picture of the engraving of St. Josaphat from his first  biography  of 1635, a reproduction of the cross from the Cathedral in Volodymyr-Volynskyi, in front of which Josaphat Kuntsevych, the future saint, prayed and a picture of the relics of the saint under the altar of St. Basil in St. Peter’s Basilica.


UGCC Department of Information


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