Pope Francis receives bishops of Ukraine.
Pope Francis on Friday, February 20, met with the Bishops of Ukraine, who were in Rome for their ad limina visit. The Bishops were led by Major-Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; and by Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv of the Latins.
In keeping with recent custom, the Holy Father’s prepared remarks were handed to the bishops at the beginning of the audience, giving Pope Francis the opportunity to speak personally with the assembled prelates.
In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis spoke about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, assuring the bishops of his continued closeness and prayers for the people of Ukraine. The Holy Father said he prayed especially for peace, and called on all parties in the conflict to “apply the agreements reached by mutual accord” and “to be respectful to the principle of international legality.” The Pope emphasized that the bishops are “full citizens” with the right to express their opinions on the future of the country — not, he said, in the sense of promoting a concrete political agenda, but by proposing common values and working for “harmony and the common good.”
He assured the bishops “the Holy See is at your side, even in international forums, to ensure your rights, your concerns, and that the just evangelical values that animate you are understood.”
The ongoing crisis in the country, Pope Francis said, also has grave repercussions for families. But families are also affected by the “misguided sense of economic liberty” that enriches the few at the expense of the great majority of the population. This, he said, “has generated an unjust poverty in a generous and rich land.”
Orthodox clergymen pray near Russian army vehicles by a Ukrainian border post in Ukraine’s Crimean region on March 1, 2014.
The Pope encouraged the bishops to renew their “pastoral zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel in Ukrainian society,” and “to support one another with effective collaboration.”
Finally, the Holy Father offered his reflections on the relationship between the members of the episcopate in the country. The presence of both the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Latin Church present in Ukraine has, at times, affected relations between the bishops. “The fact that both episcopates are Catholic and are Ukrainian is indisputable, even in the diversity of rites and traditions,” the Pope said. “It is painful for me personally to hear that there are misunderstandings and injuries. There is need of a doctor — and this is Jesus Christ, whom you both serve with generosity and with your whole hearts.”
Both Greek-Catholics and Latins, he said, are sons of the Catholic Church. He encouraged the bishops to unite their forces and support one another in their common mission.
Finally, commending them to the intercession of the martyrs and saints of Ukraine, and to the maternal protection of the Blessed Virgin, Pope Francis bestowed upon the bishops, upon their communities, and upon all the people of Ukraine, a “special” Apostolic Blessing.