03/07/2016, 18.28
VATICAN – UKRAINE
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Pope expresses “deep gratitude for the loyalty” of the Ukrainian Church, which remembers its martyrdom

In a message on the anniversary of pseudo-synod of Lviv, when Stalin forced Ukrainian Catholics “back” into the fold of the Moscow Patriarchate, Francis expressed gratitude for “those that, in the course of time and at the price of tribulations and even of martyrdom, witnessed the faith”. He also renewed his “solidarity to the pastors and faithful for what they do in this difficult time, marked by the tribulations of the war, to alleviate the suffering of the population and to seek ways of peace for the dear Ukrainian land.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis wrote a letter to His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevhchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč and Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on the anniversary of the “sad events of March 1946”. In it, the pontiff expressed his “deep gratitude for the loyalty" of Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church to the Papacy.

Seventy years ago, the so-called Synod of Lviv decided “the return" of the Greek Catholics, their churches and assets into the fold of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow. The decision came from Stalin, who saw the Catholic Church as an enemy of Communism.

The so-called synod brought together a small number of priests. All of the Church’s bishops and all other top Church officials had been jailed a year earlier by the NKVD, the KGB’s predecessor. The “return” was accompanied by violent persecution with scores of Catholic priests and believers killed.

Currently, “the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is commemorating the sad events of March 1946,” the pope said in his letter. “Seventy years ago, the ideological and political context, as well as ideas opposed to the very existence of your Church, led to the organization of a pseudo-Synod at Lviv, causing decades of suffering to the pastors and faithful.

“In recalling such events, we bow our head with profound gratitude in face of those that, in the course of time and at the price of tribulations and even of martyrdom, witnessed the faith, lived with dedication in their Church and in indefectible union with the Successor of Peter. At the same time, with eyes illumined by the same faith, we look at the Lord Jesus Christ, placing in Him, and not in human justice, our every hope. He is the true source of our confidence for the present and for the future, we being certain of being called to proclaim the Gospel also in the midst of any suffering or difficulty.

“Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good?  But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you (. . .) but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” (1 Peter 3:13-15)

“Making the Apostle Peter’s words my own, I express my profound gratitude for your fidelity and I encourage you to be tireless witnesses of this hope, which makes more luminous our existence and that of all brothers and sisters around us. I also renew my solidarity to the pastors and faithful for what they do in this difficult time, marked by the tribulations of the war, to alleviate the suffering of the population and to seek ways of peace for the dear Ukrainian land.

“Our courage and our joy are in the Lord. It is to Him that I turn, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the martyrs of your Church, so that divine consolation will illumine the faces of your communities in Ukraine and in other parts of the world. At the same time, I impart from my heart to you, to the Bishops, to the priests, to the consecrated and to the faithful of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church a special Apostolic Blessing, as sign of my constant affection and remembrance.”

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