A nation dies if it loses its courage

21.06.2011, 14:32
Exhibit dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the Blessed John Paul’s visit to Ukraine opened in the Ukrainian Home

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Ukraine. His pontificate opened a new phase both in the church’s internal life and in its secular relations. He was the first Pope to vi­sit a synagogue. (As a result, the Vatican and Israel established diplomatic relations.) Later, he visited a mosque. His meeting with Mikhail Gorbachev contributed to the rebirth of religion in the former Soviet republics after the collapse of the USSR. (In 2009 the UGCC marked its 20th anniversary of coming out of the underground.) John Paul II contributed to freeing Europe from communism.

The Holy Father’s visit to Ukraine was a historic event, regardless of the grumbling of the UOC-MP and ROC.

“The arrival of the leader of the Vatican state does not serve to convert believers to Catholicism,” the then Greek Catholic primate Liu­bomyr (Huzar) tried to remove all anxieties. “On the contrary, after this the Orthodox will become even more... Orthodox, that is, believing.”

The Pope always exemplified mercy, forgiveness and love. Going beyond the bounds of official protocols, he inspired to be PEOPLE first. His uplifting “Do not fear...” flew around the world as good tidings. Moreover, it can be said that he was our peculiar parliamentary to the Council of Europe, our defender long before this memorable visit. When visiting our diaspora in different countries, he ached for the condition of church and civil society in Ukraine, which still lived in a totalitarian system. On June 23, 2001, having stepped onto the Kyiv land, he said: “I’ve come here as your friend.” And then he purposely visited Babyn Yar and Bykivnia – he knew the wounds of Ukrainians.

“Whenever guests arrive, they always say pleasant things. Obviously, they are told pleasantness in return,” observed the UOC KP Bishop Yevstrati Zoria. “But, of course, questions and problems remain. The greatness of the Holy Father is that he understood it. As a result, he not only smiled and waved his hand, but also reflected on the difficulties and possible ways of their solution. A good example for many politicians and public figures.”

On the occasion of the anniversary, an exhibit “The Pope, Ukraine, me” was opened in the Ukrainian Home (unique pictures from the fa­mi­ly archives of Karol Wojtyla, books, a chair where he sat during the service at the Chaika stadium, his rosary...).

“We are holding this exhibition in the Ukrainian Home in order to revive the spirit of Ukrainian people, which prevailed in the times of the Pope’s visit,” said the UGCC Bishop Yosyf Milian, “At the same time, we want to attract attention to the Pope’s farewell words: ‘A nation dies if it loses its courage. A nation grows if its spirit rises every time: such a nation cannot be destroyed by any external force.’”

The exhibit will last until June 24. The opening of a memorial in honor of the Blessed Pope’s visit to Ukraine will be held on June 23. On the same day, a screening of the film Karol: A man who became Pope (directed by Giacomo Battiato) will take place in the Kinopalace cinema. The presentation of the Ukrainian edition of George Weigel’s book Witness of Hope. Bio­graphy of Pope John Paul II will be held the next day, together with a discussion “The visit of Blessed Pope of Rome John Paul II to Ukraine: Lessons for the state and society,” attended by His Reverence Liubomyr (Huzar), the Secretary of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church, Archbishop Mykola Etero­vych, known scientists, public fi-gures, politicians.


Natalia DYKA, a teacher:

“I greeted the Holy Father in Lviv. It seemed as if the whole nigh-million city was welcoming him.

“The very presence of the Pope influenced us! We were filled with love. Everybody wanted to forgive and to beg forgiveness themselves. Everybody wanted to live! Such things happen after a pilgrimage. After visiting a sacred place and having confessed, people feel renewed and filled with energy.

“When the sizable crowd cried: ‘Ukraine loves the Pope!’ the pontiff smiled gently and blessed the audience, which meant: ‘The Pope loves Ukraine!’ After all, his actions have shown this many times.”

Vasyl STELMASHKO, an engineer:

“I was at a meeting with the Holy Father in Kyiv. Unforgettable impressions. Still touching. The meeting with the Pope, his blessing to all who were there – obviously, it changed me. John Paul II emitted love. (And nothing changes a person as much as love.) It somehow liberated us from the layers and fears of the past. It purified. And the Pope’s ‘Do not fear...’ added courage. His visit brought hope. To each his own. And to all together: hope that Ukraine becomes firmly established and occupies its rightful place in Europe.”


20 June 2011 The Day