Gregorian calendar parish established in UGCC Diocese of Paris
On December 25, on the occasion of the Nativity of Christ according to the Gregorian calendar, the dedication of the throne and the official opening of the parish, the main language of which will be French, was held in the Belgian town of Tournais.
It will be chaired by Father Ihor Nakonechnyy - the rector of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic community in the French city of Lille. The Chapel of the Holy Virgin La Salet of the Paris Diocese was handed over to Bishop of Tournais, Monsignor Guy Arpigny in September this year. For nearly a century, from 1903 to 1990, it was taken care of by Salet Fathers, who had to abandon the chapel due to lack of vocations. This is reported by the Communication Service of the Diocese of Paris.
“Having survived through totalitarian mortality and resurrection, with the younger generation of clerics and active lay people, our Church is once again rethinking what the Church is. Without a mission there is no Christianity. Therefore, it is important that whatever our internal Ukrainian challenges and problems remain, there remains openness to external missions. Today, for the first time in Western Europe, a parish of our Church was opened, which is primarily intended for non-Ukrainians. It is called to become the laboratory of our withdrawal from the national ghetto,” said Borys (Gudziak), the concept of the new parish. This is already the 43rd community of the Diocese of Paris and the third one observing the Gregorian calendar.
Given that the chapel was not used for a long time, the Christmas Liturgy began with the consecration of the throne celebrated by Bishops Borys (Gudziak) and Hlib (Lonchyna), along with protosyncellus Michael Romanyuk and priests of the diocese.
Rector Ihor Nakonechnyy is full of ideas and plans for further community development. As a musician by his first education, he dreams of its becoming a place of development and popularization of the so-called Kyiv chant, which Metropolitan Sheptytsky admired.
A special heritage and adornment of the newly formed parish is the centennial Byzantine iconostasis by an unknown author that was presented to the first parish priest of Lille, Fr Narozhniak. The iconostasis has not been used for the last years because the community serves in a chapel where it is impossible to install it.
It was the presence of this iconostasis that prompted Taras Lovas to lead the parish council, although he himself lives in Lille. “When I was small, this iconostasis was in Lille, then for many years it simply was kept, even almost burned down, and here it will be revived. Therefore, I will help develop this parish, and then I will pass this cause to the young,” he shared.
Representatives of the communities of Belgium and northern France are also being joined and ready to continue to engage in the development of the parish. They helped to arrange a chapel, which was not used for several decades, and organized a warm family holiday for the birth of a new parish. Many families came with young children, and the church was immediately revitalized.
“It will not be easy, and nobody can guarantee success, but our intentions are clear, and today's joyful day of the joint celebration of the Nativity gives us great hope which we will bring forward.”
In his sermon, Bishop Hlib (Lonchyna) of the UGCC London Diocese of the Holy Family, who came to support the friendly diocese, called, when celebrating Christmas, when preserving traditions, to go beyond one’s own needs (and even pain) and support neighbors, showing sympathy for each person, their difficulties. "If we really want to truly experience Christmas, then we have to hear others and empathize with others,” he emphasized.
The city of Tournais is located in the Wallonian part of Belgium, which in ancient times was one of the largest economic and cultural centers of the county of Flanders and the seat of the Flemish bishops. Now it makes part of an agglomeration comprising about two million people.