The second Synod of the UGCC Bishops in times of the full-scale war commenced in Rome
The Hierarchical Liturgy at the Basilica of Saint Sophia in Rome was celebrated by the Head of the UGCC, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, along with bishops of the UGCC from around the world. Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, came to greet the Synodal Fathers, as reported by the Information Department of the UGCC.
Forty-five out of the 55 bishops from Ukraine, Central and Western Europe, North and South America, and Australia are participating in the Synod. Bishop-nominee Mykhailo Kvyatkovsky, the newly appointed bishop of the New Westminster Eparchy, is participating in the Synod for the first time, along with bishops consecrated in the past year: Bishops Maxim Ryabukha, Mykola Semenyshyn, Andriy Khimyak, Petro Holiney, and Volodymyr Firman. Among the participants are also invited guests.
His Beatitude Sviatoslav described this year's Synod in Rome, the second during full-scale war, as a Synod of hope.
The first sign of hope is that the Synodal action is a moment of the descent of the Holy Spirit: "Whenever the Church or the people have experienced difficult moments in their history (we would say today, crisis moments), the Church convened local or even Ecumenical Councils. Because such an assembly of our apostles of today, our bishops, is a special moment of the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church and on the people... Gathering at this Synod, we bishops stand in prayer before the face of God and ask our Lord: God, reveal Your will to us and give us the courage, the boldness to fulfill it wholeheartedly, trusting in You."
His Beatitude Sviatoslav poignantly stated that many people in the world today, if Ukraine, its people, state, and Church did not exist, would live happier and more peacefully. He recalled an Argentine saying, "I am a pebble in the shoe," and noted that the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is that "pebble in the shoe" for those who would prefer to pursue their earthly affairs, ignoring God's call to the Heavenly Kingdom as it truly is.
The second sign of hope for this year's Synod is that the Ukrainian bishops, gathered in Rome, have a unique platform to speak with a powerful voice, "Urbi et Orbi" – to the city of Rome, to the Holy Father, and to the whole world. "Today, as old empires awaken, as a neo-colonial war is waged by the Russian aggressor in Ukraine, it is so important that the world hears the true story of Ukraine, even Russia, Eastern Europe, written not by colonizers or imperialists but spoken, written in the blood of oppressed nations struggling today for the right to exist, for freedom, for their own unique independent Ukrainian state," emphasized His Beatitude Sviatoslav. He further stated, "Today, the world wants to hear about Ukraine, and precisely through the voice of our Church, and from Rome."
The third significant sign of hope at this year's Synod is the opportunity for Ukrainian bishops to personally meet with the Holy Father and receive a gesture of hope from him. "We know that he is a great master of listening and gestures. The Holy Father wants to listen to the Synod of Ukrainian bishops. He specifically invites us to meet an hour earlier than scheduled to give not only the Head of the Church an opportunity to speak to him but also every bishop of our Church on behalf of their flock, their eparchy, their exarchate. And he, as a master of listening, ready to hear us. And, as a master of gestures, which sometimes can be more expressive than written or spoken words, I believe he will give us such a gesture of hope," expressed His Beatitude Sviatoslav.
In his address to the Synod, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, greeted the Head of the UGCC, the bishops, and the faithful, conveying greetings from Pope Francis. He assured that the love and attention of the Pope towards Ukraine are constant.
"I look at you, and I see in your eyes as if photographs of those people who have died, who have been killed, those who have suffered and continue to suffer spiritually and physically," said the archbishop. He referred to the war in Ukraine as "atheistic" and "God-killing" because "where innocent people are killed, there is a murdered God."
The Synod of Bishops of the UGCC for the year 2023 will continue until September 13th.