“You are not alone," - the Vatican Secretary of State addressed the Synod of the UGCC Bishops
The Information Department of the UGCC published the Ukrainian translation of the cardinal's speech, which was carried out by the Secretariat of the Head of the UGCC in Rome.
Your Beatitude, Your Excellencies!
I warmly greet all of you on behalf of the other leaders of the State Secretariat on the occasion of your annual Synod gathering, which you have chosen to hold this year near the tombs of the apostles Peter and Paul and near the throne of the successor of the apostle Peter. Out of the four options considered in July 2022 (Kyiv, Lviv, Rome, and Przemyśl), you ultimately chose Rome, not only because the war prevented you from meeting in Ukraine but also, as His Beatitude explained in the letter in which you invited me, to "express gratitude for the communion within the Universal Church."
In the end, the relations between Kyiv and Rome have a thousand-year history dating back to the end of the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century and were not even interrupted by the schism of 1054, as evidenced by the letter of Pope Gregory VII to the Kyivan Prince Iziaslav in 1075, in which we find the words: "May Saint Peter, with his intercession before God, preserve you and your kingdom, and all your goods." The Holy See is very grateful to you for this gesture of communion, as the relationship with the successor of Peter is a constitutive dimension of your Church's identity. His Beatitude confirmed this in an interview with the "Glavkom" news agency on June 23: "For us Catholics, the Pope, the Apostolic See, is not about politics or the informational aspect; it is a concrete expression of the nature of the Church of Christ itself. We are Catholics not because Pope Francis is the Pope or because the Pope expresses himself correctly or incorrectly on international matters. We are Catholics because we believe that the Apostle Peter, together with the college of apostles, and the successors of the Apostle Peter play a special role in the Church. We paid a very high price for the unity of our Church with the successor of Peter, paying with our blood, through centuries of persecution and the sufferings of our martyrs and confessors of the faith."
It was precisely this theme that the previous Synod was dedicated to, bearing the title "Synodality and Sobornost: The Experience of the UGCC." On this occasion, especially after the difficult years of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the context of the tragic war unleashed five months earlier with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, you did not limit yourselves to theoretical theological reflections but delved into the specifics, seeking new ways of closeness and pastoral care for the faithful and the entire Ukrainian people, regardless of their religious beliefs, in order to heal their wounds.
You have contemplated the fundamental question: "How can we be the Church?" in such dramatic circumstances and expressed the conviction that only "the Church, close to human suffering and pain, is alive and will never become a museum" (see: Message of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, 2022).
In Ukrainian Greek Catholic parishes and communities around the world, humanitarian aid collection centers were organized, including food, clothing, and medicine. Among them, the Holy Sophia community in Rome stands out, from which over a hundred trucks departed, mostly for the residents of the Kharkiv and Kherson regions. A special contribution to this "Samaritan work" was made by the mission of Caritas Ukraine, together with the mission of Caritas-Spes, whose workers spared no effort, even risking their own lives. Bishops and priests stayed with their faithful in occupied territories. Here, I would like to mention two Redemptorist priests from Berdiansk, Father Ivan Levytskyi and Father Bohdan Heletu, who disappeared after their arrest in November 2022. The Holy See shares your concern for their fate and does not neglect any opportunity to obtain information about them and secure their release.
You also devoted pastoral attention to the soldiers who are defending the homeland. Faced with the threat to the very existence of the Ukrainian people, you supported them spiritually with your prayers and taught that while defending the sovereignty and freedom of their national territory, Ukrainians must also guard their hearts against succumbing to hatred, the easy prey of which they can become in the face of so many atrocities. This, in fact, is the most important battle for a Christian, and as you pointed out in the Message published by the Synod last year under the title "Overcoming Evil with Good," you assured, "We will ultimately triumph only when we continue to love.
Your Beatitude, Your Excellencies!
Allow me to conclude by assuring you that you are not alone. The Holy See is with you, with each of you personally, and with the Holy Father. I remember his public appeals, which began immediately after February 24, 2022, the letter of November 24, 2022, the "Pope for Ukraine" campaign at the onset of the war, and the humanitarian aid brought by Cardinal Krajewski. Considering these repeated and significant gestures, it would be unfair to doubt his support for the Ukrainian people and his efforts, not always understood and appreciated, aimed at ending the ongoing tragedy and ensuring a just and stable peace through negotiations.
No less attention was given by the State Secretariat, which, together with the Holy Father, inquired about the exchange of prisoners, and the return of Ukrainian children from Russia (a matter on which Cardinal Dziwisz's mission worked as the Pope's special envoy during his visits to Kyiv and Moscow), the agreement on wheat exports, humanitarian aspects of the Ukrainian government's peace plan, and other related issues. Attempts were made to listen, first and foremost, to the people, through relevant state authorities and representatives of various religious organizations who gathered in Ukraine in the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, as well as to numerous figures in the international community, in order to encourage their participation in a just and peaceful resolution of the conflict. In the near future, following your Beatitude's long-standing proposal and in the context of the Permanent Interdicasterial Commission for the Church in Eastern Europe, we will meet with representatives of the Eastern Catholic Churches of their own right and the Latin rite Church, as well as with some experts, to explore issues related to the war and its origins. We remember that war is always evil, and even in the case of the right to legitimate defense, our duty as Christians and pastors is to minimize its consequences both in words and deeds.
We entrust our "good fight" to the intercession of St. Josaphat, on the four hundredth anniversary of his death (November 12, 2023). For, having received a warning of a conspiracy against him, a few days before his death, he asked the Lord for the grace to "shed his blood for the unity and obedience to the Apostolic See." He died forgiving his tormentors, and this gesture had such an impact on some of them that they returned to communion with the Church of Rome. May, through his intercession and the intercession of the Mother of God, the communion of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with the successor of Peter become stronger, and may the Lord grant that our plea be heard so that the war in Ukraine may end as soon as possible, and our beloved Ukrainian people can live in dignity, freedom, prosperity, and peace.