Eastern Catholics express excitement at the nomination of Pope Francis

27.03.2013, 12:21
Fr. Peter Galadza, is a Ukrainian Catholic priest and professor at the Sheptytsky Institute at the University of St. Paul in Ottawa, Canada.

Fr. Peter Galadza, is a Ukrainian Catholic priest and professor at the Sheptytsky Institute at the University of St. Paul in Ottawa, Canada.

He was here in Rome as part of the Canadian government's official delegation to Rome for the inauguration of Pope Francis.During his stay, Fr. Galadza popped into Vatican Radio to participate in a live webcast on Vatican Radio’s YouTube channel last week where he shared his first impressions of Pope Francis and spoke a little about his hopes for the future.

Speaking to Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni he said that Ukrainian Catholics were excited and happy when they heard of Cardinal Bergoglio’s nomination as Pope Francis…

Father Galadza says one of the reasons for the joy expressed by Ukrainian Catholics for the nomination of Pope Francis, is the latter’s special affection for the poor because so many of the Eastern Catholics throughout the world – whether they are Ukrainian Catholics or Catholics in the Middle East – are from very poor communities.

In the case of Ukraine, father Galadza explains, poverty has been the norm for Eastern Catholics for some 800 years.

Another very special connection Pope Francis has to Eastern Catholics, father Galadza says, is that “when he was still a student at high school, he used to serve as an acolyte, every day for a Ukrainian Catholic priest who served in the Byzantine rite. So he has grown up with a real knowledge of the Eastern Catholic Church”.As regards the fact that Pope Francis has been asking for prayers for him, since the very beginning of his Papacy, father Galadza says Francis is really putting the focus on the divine. It is so easy for us – he says – to lose sight of this, and so this looking upward and saying “I need your prayers” is crucial.

And adding to that, father Galadza says that “in our day and age, to be able to proclaim the totality, the integrity of Catholic doctrine is such an uphill battle”. And – he says – “when you have someone who is commited to this kind of doctrinal and moral orthodoxy, authentic Catholicism, and who at the same time is visiting sick people in the middle of the night in the slums – nobody is going to say that he is ‘ancient regime’, someone who can’t get out of the 19th century – it’s very effective, a very powerful witness”.

People seem to be bowled over by the simplicity of Francis’ message. Father Galadza says “those of us who are in the Church, who love Jesus Christ, who love the Catholic Church, we know that these things are not the most important. Unfortunately, in the world of optics and image, if you can come off with that kind of evangelical simplicity – which of course is not just a matter of image or optics – but if you can add that to your presentation it very much helps because we are in the age where everything is image and optics”.As regards to what he is looking forward to, father Galadza says he anticipates a reinvigoration of faith that occurs when the Church gets “a shot in the arm like this”.

He points out that he personally was very excited about Benedict XVI because of his amazing intellectual abilities. “In history, the works that that Pope theologian produced, even as Cardinal and then as a Pope will go down in history and endure”. And what’s more he says, “it’s been 500 years since we had a bad Pope so we are on a roll here and we get another shot in the arm with someone who is going to be stressing other things and – especially for North Americans – this question of authenticity is crucial. Our Primate, Archbishop Shevchuk, has used the word authenticity to describe the Pope over and over in the past days. And he knew him personally, he considers Cardinal Bergoglio his mentor in the episcopate because his first assignment as a Ukrainian Catholic bishop was in Argentina, so this whole dimension of poverty, simplicity, evangelical councils etc. is something that will provide another inburst of the Holy Spirit for the Catholic Church worldwide”.