Christmas Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav

Most Reverend Archbishops and Metropolitans,

God-loving Bishops, Very Reverend Clergy, Venerable Monastics,

Dearly Beloved Brothers and Sisters,

in Ukraine and throughout the world

 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, 

good will toward men (Lk 2:14)

 

Christ is born!  Glorify Him!

Beloved in Christ!

Today we share with you a great joy that was first received and shared by nameless shepherds of Bethlehem, who outdoors in an open field watched over their flock in the middle of the night. As described by the evangelist Luke, when an angel of the Lord appeared to them, at first, they were filled with fear. But the angel spoke to them: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). And then, when the shepherds heard the angelic choirs sing, “Glory to God in the highest,” they said to one another: “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk 2: 15). And they went, they found Mary and Joseph with the Child, and, having given them due reverence, went out and told others about Jesus.

The good news of Christmas is a feast of trust—not only of trust shared among us, human beings, but, above all, of God’s trust in humankind. We often speak of our faith in God, but rarely do we make note of God’s good will towards us, His faith and trust in us. The Lord entrusted the first good news about the birth of the Divine Child to simple shepherds, and then He shared the Good News of the Gospel with the myrrh-bearing women, with fishermen and tax-collectors—with simple and largely unknown people.

In Christ’s Nativity, the Heavenly Father entrusts His Only-begotten Son to humanity, and God becomes man! The angelic choir proclaiming “peace on earth to men of good will” speaks to the fact that God sees man as worthy of his trust and favour, preference and good will (which is how we literally translate the Greek term, eudokia). He sees us as good and believes in us. He sees us not only as we are today, with all our weaknesses and sinfulness, our poverty and perplexity. The Son of God sees in us His Image. In His incarnation, He takes on our human nature and teaches us to see Him, the Saviour of the world, in a small child. Seeing us as people of His good will, He sees us as those who we can become by the power of His grace just as loving parents see in their child a talented future writer or artist, a good mother or tender and responsible father, the leader of a people or their mighty protector.

In this Christmas mystery, the figure of the Theotokos personifies the trust that we humans should foster towards our Creator and Saviour, in response to God’s trust in us. The Mother of God, who holds in her arms the tiny Jesus in a cold stable, teaches us that we can and must trust God and our neighbour, since the Lord loved us first and entrusted Himself to us. In receiving the word of the archangel, she gives God space in her own body, gives Him her humanity—her human nature. Then St. Joseph, the guardian of Jesus and His Mother, having learned that Mary is pregnant, at first thinks of quietly releasing her. But, when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20), he believed, entrusted himself to God, and did everything as the angel commanded, justifying the Lord’s trust in him.

We live in a world where trust is not merely wounded, but under constant attack. A great crisis of trust is felt in different spheres of social and even church life. Through new communication technologies, the manipulation of truth, which has always existed throughout human history, today is carried with lightning speed all over the globe. We no longer know what to believe and whom to trust. Our understanding is permeated with the conviction that in the world there is no truth and no justice, and that at every step there is only deception, falsehood, and duplicity.

This dramatic situation is illustrated in the icon of the Nativity. The evil spirit, depicted in the form of an elderly man dressed in sheepskin, tempts Joseph, seeking to give rise to doubt in him regarding the Child and His Mother. This should surprise no one, for the devil, as the father of lies (see Jn 8:44) at every step seeks to sow mistrust and doubt regarding God’s good will towards us, and fosters interpersonal conflict at all levels, in personal, family, and community life.

The current pandemic has further increased this crisis of trust. Given that the virus hides inside a person, the other for me becomes a potential source of illness, and even death. This introduces into human relations elements of suspicion, fear, and escape.

Our attitude towards social and government institutions is also marked by mistrust. Various conspiracy allegations regarding the safety of the coronavirus vaccine augment a mistrust of authority, that is already prevalent in our society, and bring out in our fellow citizens even greater confusion and fear for the future. People don’t believe the government and other institutions called to care for the common good and for social health services, as is their responsibility. Possibly, because of the history of the 20th century, post-Soviet societies have a greater tendency, than do other parts of the world, to disbelieve government institutions, and thus easily become susceptible to all sorts of manipulation and propaganda. Similarly, in the politically polarized countries of the Western world, the spreading of fear and mistrust is also utilized as an instrument of political warfare. However, it is important to remember that when we adopt a principle of “I don’t believe anyone,” we always play into someone else’s hands, someone exploits our disappointment for their own purposes. Mistrust destroys human relations at all levels. Mistrust destroys the family, society, a people, and nation!

In response to our present-day temptations regarding mistrust, the Lord Himself comes in order to reveal the truth and embrace us with His trust. On the vigil of the Nativity, we sing: “You have shone forth from a Virgin, O Christ, rational Sun of Righteousness. And a star showed You, Whom nothing can contain, contained in a cave. You led Magi to worship You and along with them we magnify You: Glory to You, O Giver of Life” (Vespers Troparion). To celebrate Christ’s Nativity is to trust the Divine Child who conquers death and, by accepting human life, brings the gift of His Divine Life. Christmas is not some devotional tale but a unique event in history, which bears witness to the Lord’s trust in humankind. God believes in His creation. He believes in us more than we believe in ourselves.

Through faith in God, in His birth among us, let us restore our trust in a humanity that searches for Him! Let us be people of God’s favour and let us learn to place our favour in others—to see in them their good characteristics, gifts and talents, abilities, and elevated spirit. Although today the circumstances of a spreading virus at times require us to cover with protective masks our mouths and nostrils, but in God’s name, let us not close off our hearts to others! Let others see joy, love, and goodness in our eyes! Indeed, in the midst of the challenges and trials of the pandemic, let us be heralds of Divine good will.

My wish is that, following the example of the Holy Family, our families be a place of mutual respect, love, and trust. I especially ask you, beloved parents, to foster a spirit of trust in your children, so that, when they encounter the challenges of this world, they know that they can always count both on you and on our Lord God, who entrusted them into your care. At various stages of your children’s growth, cultivate and build trust and mutual respect in joy, love, and patience. Be for them their first teachers of profound faith, an example of fervent prayer, encourage them to serve their neighbour at an early age. Give the greatest of attention to the time of transition from childhood to youth, take care that your children know how to distinguish between the false and the authentic, between divine truth and diabolical falsehood. May your offspring know that not only you believe in them and are able to see their future in realized talents and divine gifts, developed in their souls, but that our Lord God Himself believes in them and calls on them to do His good works in the world.

And so, let us celebrate Christmas together! Wherever we may be, through mutual trust let us create today our own Bethlehem! Those who celebrate in their family circle—with sincere joy. Those who are compelled to be far from your loved ones—with a sense of spiritual unity. Those who are able to come to church—with a profound experience of the feast’s solemnity and with love for Christ who gives Himself to us as spiritual food as a sign that He believes in us. Those who participate in divine services online—with a blessed longing for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let each of us share our Christmas joy with one another—any way we can! And may the traditional Ukrainian carol resound throughout.

Dear brothers and sisters! This festive day I express to you my trust and faith, that you yourselves intuitively sense how to properly greet the newborn Saviour, and know how to share the joy of this encounter with those at your side. With Christ’s Nativity, I warmly greet you all: from East to West, from North to South—in Ukraine and abroad, on all the continents of the world. In a special way, I unite myself to those who are sad or feel lonely, to all who labour far from home and precisely in this moment experience the absence of their loved ones and miss the warmth of the family home. I express my condolences to those families for whom this year it is painful to sit at Christmas Eve supper, when at the table there is an empty seat, not long ago occupied by a father or mother, husband or wife, brother or sister, son or daughter. With tearful eyes be joyful in the faith that today your loved ones are celebrating in heaven. I share my Christmas joy with our elderly—grandmothers and grandfathers, and also with the needy. I sincerely greet our soldiers on the front line—our pride. My thoughts fly to our prisoners of war and those held captive: in conveying my Christmas greeting I encourage you to not lose spirit, for our Lord God Himself believes in you. I greet our children and youth—our future, and wish that today your smile not leave your face, and that your joy be full.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish all of you the authentic joy of the children of God, a tasty kutia, a cheerful celebration of Christ’s Nativity, and a happy, peaceful, and blessed New Year!

Christ is born!  Glorify Him!

† SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv

at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,

on the day of the all-praiseworthy Apostle Andrew the First-called

the 13th of December (30th of November) in the 2021st Year of our Lord




Fire at St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church in Arnold, PA

At approximately 8 p.m. on December 4, 2021, a serious fire broke out at St. Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church, 1606 Kenneth Avenue, Arnold, PA.  Pastor, Fr. Yaroslav Koval, was on site at the time and immediately was in contact with an administrative representative from the Eparchy of St. Josaphat in Parma.

While the exact cause is unknown at this time, Fr. Koval informed the Eparchy that a fire broke out in the church proper causing extreme damage to the roof, to numerous windows, and other parts of the church interior.  According to Fr. Koval part of the church roof later collapsed.  Numerous local fire departments and as many as 12 fire trucks were there to battle the blaze.  They were until 3 a.m. in the morning until the fire was under control.

Fr. Koval has been informed that the eparchy will support the St. Vladimir community in prayer and in any other possible way.  The parish has received tremendous support from the local community.  A local church offered their building to be used for services.  On Sunday, December 5th, the parish celebrated Divine Liturgy as scheduled in the school hall next door which was not affected by the fire.  Moving forward the parish plan is to continue services in the church hall for the immediate future.  If a funeral arises and the family prefers, one of the local churches that offered can be used for funeral services.

As more information is gathered, the information will be shared with the Eparchy’s parishes,clergy and faithful.  We continue to pray for the parish community at this time.

Fire at St Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic church in Arnold, PA




Sr. Anne Katherine Binkowski, M.S.M.G., 92, died

Sr. Anne Katherine Binkowski, M.S.M.G., 92, died peacefully at the convent of the Missionary Sisters of Mother of God (711 N Franklin St. Philadelphia, PA 19123) on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, of Alzheimer’s Disease. Born in Derby, CT on April 14, 1929, she was the youngest daughter of the late John and Mary Grabowski Binkowski. Sr. Anne was a member of SS. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ansonia, CT. After graduating from Derby High School, she completed a training program to become hairdresser. She then owned and operated a hair salon for 10 years with her good friend Grace Ceraso. 

On June 15, 1963, at age 34, she entered the MSMG convent at Stamford, CT. She made her first profession in 1966 and took Final Vows on January 1, 1972. Sr. Anne worked for 20 years (1972-92) at Mother of God Academy in various capacities, including high school secretary, chief maintenance engineer, prefect of resident students; and was an instructor of typing, bookkeeping, accounting, childcare, and earth science. She also held the position of Headteacher at St. Ann’s Nursery School for 40 years (1972-2012), teaching multiple generations of young souls not only their ABC’s and 123’s, but their first prayers, and lovingly instilling virtue and devotion to Jesus and Mary. 

Sr. Anne used her talents to help the Congregation with the publication of The ARK, the training of novices, as well as serving as a Councilor, landscaper, and vegetable gardener. She enjoyed hands-on work, drawing, wood carving, and watching football. Her favorite book for spiritual reading was the Bible and she cherished praying in Old Church Slavonic. Sr. Ann was a unique and noble soul, a woman of strong convictions, and a lively wit, who always exhibited a spirit of heartfelt gratitude. It was therefore quite fitting that her last full day on this earth was the celebration of Thanksgiving!

Surviving are a brother, William (Maura “Mary”) Binkowski of Derby; many fond nieces and nephews, including Alice Odoy (Edwin) and Jean Petriw Walker (Scott) of Derby; as well as many beloved great nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death her siblings:  Mary (Paul) Mudry, Anna (Stephen) Petriw, John (Martha) Binkowski, Julia Binkowski, Peter Binkowski, Helen Binkowski, Paul Binkowski, and Msgr. George Binkowski. 

Funeral will be on Thursday, Dec. 2 at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, 830 N Franklin St. Philadelphia, PA 19123. Viewing at 9:30 A.M., Requiem Divine Liturgy will be celebrated by Bishop Andriy Rabiy and members of the clergy at 10:30 A.M. Interment will directly follow at Our Lady of Sorrows Ukrainian Catholic Cemetery, 2590 Village Rd, Langhorne, PA 19047. 

In lieu of flowers, Divine Liturgies for the soul of Sr. Anne, MSMG, are most appreciated.

 




US Bishops To Elect Several New Committee Heads At November Meeting

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced the slate of candidates for five committee chair positions to be filled this fall, as well as candidates for the position of treasurer-elect.

The bishops will elect new committee chairs at their fall general assembly in Baltimore, which will be held from Nov. 15-18. The meeting marks the first in-person meeting of the conference in two years.

Archeparch Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois will be considered for the position of chairman-elect for the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

The bishops will also be voting to approve the final draft of a teaching document on the Eucharist, an item that received considerable attention and debate during their spring meeting.




The Parable of the Wedding Feast

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come.

A second time: ‘Tell those invited: “everything is ready; come to the feast.”’ Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them.” (Matthew 22:2-4)

This most definitely is no way to respond to the generous, kind invitation of the king to joyously celebrate the wedding of the king’s son.  The king prepared a feast or banquet in celebration of this joyous event.   The fattened calves and fattened cattle were killed and all was prepared to begin the banquet.  The message to the invited guests was: “Everything is ready, come to the feast.”  However, those first invited ignored the cordial invitation.  They make excuses of various kinds as to why they cannot come:  some just ignore it and leave, another to his farm, another to his business.  Some do not merely refuse to accept the king’s invitation, but lay hold of the messenger servants and mistreat or even kill them.  We read that the king is upset (enraged) over their refusal and mistreatment of the messenger servants.  The king then sent his troops to punish them.

The king regards these first invited as not worthy to attend.  He then orders the messenger servants to go out “into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.”  The banquet hall is now filled with guests.  The invitation is an open one to the good and to the bad.

God’s love for man is for all.  God calls each and every one of us to salvation, to come and partake of the Heavenly Banquet.  All, however, will not respond positively to this invitation.  God is calling us to love Him above any other person and any other thing or possession.  God is to be at the center of our daily lives.  We need to set our priorities straight so that when the King calls us to the Heavenly Banquet we may be willing and ready to respond “yes”.  We are to “set aside every earthly care.” God alone is to have the first place in our daily lives.  Those in today’s gospel speak about going to one’s farm or taking care of some business.  For us today, the distractions may be money, power or prestige.  May we be living in the Spirit of Christ so as to be ready to open our hearts to the Lord and follow His Holy Will.

We who have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  We’ve taken off the old self laden with sin and put on Christ.  The baptized in Christ have been cleansed of all sin.  The baptized have promised to serve Christ.  This decision to serve the Lord is not just a one-day occurrence.  But rather, the Christian life is to be lived all the days of our lives.  The guest who came to the wedding feast without the proper attire (clothing) showed a lack of respect and concern for the ways of the king.  Likewise, when we stand before the Lord God seeking entry into the banquet in the eternal Kingdom of God, may we be properly clothed.  The true Christian remains a humble servant of the Master who seeks to render constant praise to the eternal God.

When our time comes and indeed only the Lord God knows the hour and the day, may we be ready having “put on” Christ and living in the grace of God.  May our lives be so in tune with the Lord that we could say as did St. Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives within me.  Our hearts are to remain open to keep the Commandments to live according to the Holy Will of God.  May we be humble servants of the Lord who live here on earth “with and in Christ” in order to one day live forever with Him in Heaven.  May we enter into that place of Light where all the just and saints repose.

Rev. D. George Worschak




Tens of thousands of pilgrims from around Ukraine took part in a pilgrimage to Zarvanytsia this year

A nationwide pilgrimage to the miraculous icon of the Mother of God of Zarvanytsia finished today with the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy led by His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the Head of the UGCC. This year Zarvanytsia hosted tens of thousands pilgrims from around Ukraine and from abroad. The pilgrimage to “Ukrainian Jerusalem” is dedicated to the 425th anniversary of the Union of Brest and a prayer for peace in Ukraine.

Among the participants were bishops from the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, bike pilgrims with a route Częstochowa – Zarvanytsia, groups of pilgrims from eparchies around Ukraine, a pilgrimage walk of some groups lasted for almost a week. Among the guests was the fifth president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko with his wife.

Commemorating the 425th anniversary of the Union of Brest which liquidated the separation between the Western and Eastern Christianity bears a special meaning for the UGCC, which rekindle memories of a single Church.

At the end of the Liturgy His Beatitude Sviatoslav awarded Mykola Kmit with the Order of Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky for his active public and social position in regard of cherishing Christian values, active participation as a senator of Ukrainian Catholic University, whole-hearted service and support of many Church projects.

The UGCC Department for Information

 

 




Bishop Mykola Bychok Enthroned as New Bishop of Australia and New Zealand

On July 12, 2021, in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in Melbourne the enthronement of Bishop Mykola Bychok took place.

Pontifical Divine Liturgy was led by Bishop Petro Stasiuk, the Bishop Emeritus of the Melbourne Eparchy of the UGCC. His Eminence Peter Comensoli, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, performed the ceremony of enthronement.

An interesting relic, which Bishop Mykola Bychok brought from Newark (NJ) to Australia was a wooden cross donated in the 1960s by Ukrainians of Australia to Archbishop Ambrose Senyshyn when he visited their communities. This cross was preserved by Bishop Emeritus Basil Losten, who handed  it to Bishop Mykola Bychok.

Bishop Mykola noted: “This is an important sign: Metropolitan Ambrose once received this cross from the faithful here in Melbourne, and 60 years later this cross returned to Australia with the third bishop. This is an incredible sign that will accompany me in my service to our faithful in Australia.”

Bishop Mykola said that the faithful and the priests of the UGCC accepted his appointment and arrival as another gesture of unity with Ukraine. Interestingly, he as well as the two previous bishops of the UGCC in Australia—Bishops Ivan Prasko and Petro Stasiuk—have roots in the Ternopil region. In 1958, the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia was formed, and its cathedral consecrated 58 years ago.

 




Archbishop Borys with Ukrainian American Community Leaders in Meeting with Biden Administration

Two Biden Administration members, Chris Smith of the National Security Council and William McIntee, Associate Director for Public Engagement, held an online meeting with Ukrainian American community leaders. Among community leaders in attendance were His Excellency Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s Archeparchy of Philadelphia, His Excellency Daniel Zelinsky of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A., Andriy Futey of the UCCA, Michael Sawkiw of the UNIS and U.S. Holodomor Committee, and Walter Zaryckyj of the Center for U.S.-Ukraine Relations. The event was organized by Ulana Mazurkevich.

Chris Smith has been the NSC’s director for Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and the Caucasus since February. Prior to this he served as INL director at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv from 2014 to 2018 where he helped establish anticorruption institutions and worked on police reform. “I bring these experiences with me to work every day,” Smith said during the Zoom call. He also noted that President Biden knows a lot about Ukraine and has a deep history of commitment to the country dating back to 2009 when he began visiting while Vice President of the Obama Administration.

The Biden Administration’s strategic goals regarding Ukraine are revitalizing U.S.-Ukraine bilateral relations, helping Ukraine in a challenging struggle against Russian aggression, as well as helping in the war against corruption.

“If Ukraine can succeed—can integrate with the West, can strengthen its institutions, can deliver on prosperity, can deliver on the aspirations that were voiced at Maidan and every day since and before—that would solidify and secure democracy and Western values not only in Eastern Europe but also in Central Europe,” said the NSC representative. He believes Ukraine’s success holds prospects for many people in Russia who seek to build a better nation.

U.S. strategy in Ukraine focuses on three major lines of effort: standing up to Russian aggression; structural anticorruption reform, which is an area where the U.S. can extend assistance in action-oriented results; and the economy–namely energy infrastructure.

Archbishop Borys Gudziak expressed gratitude to the President’s Administration and Consular General in Kyiv for the recent breakthrough in issuing visas to Ukrainian Catholic clergy ready to serve in the United States. Ukrainian Catholicism in the U.S. has been crippled by a clergy shortage, and efforts to meet the needs of the faithful were only exacerbated by the pandemic. “Having good clergy here will help address diverse social needs and will save a lot of taxpayer dollars if we can do some preventive medicine in the social context,” explained the Archbishop.

He also expressed thanks for the support given to the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, where he serves as president, as well as for attention paid to the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine. The Metropolitan stressed the importance of media support in this respect. “Russia is waging informational warfare, and we ask that there be continuing official explanations on many fronts–to the American public, American political leaders, and to the international community about exactly what is going on. The good offices of different information agencies of the U.S. are highly appreciated, and I hope that they continue their efforts.”

By Mariana Karapinka




Patriarch Sviatoslav: “Freedom is the ability to do good”

In the framework of the special project “University of the XXI century” of the media source The Ukrainians and Ukrainian Catholic University, Patriarch Sviatoslav spoke on the role of the contemporary university, and we offer you some of his main ideas:

If we imagine a state, society as a body, then the university should be its brain that develops specific guidelines by perceiving, exploring, and analyzing the surrounding world. Universities must perceive the modern world’s data, its components, tendencies, and tell where we, as a society, are in our development, what are our risks and dangers. And the most important – where should we head.

University should be progressive and not reactionary. Like a brain, it has to push the “body” forward. If the university does not answer what to do tomorrow but only reacts to the things, where it itself does not play the role of a protagonist, leader, or promoter – it will always fall behind.

We still do not have a clear state policy on the development of universities, but there is a positive effort to introduce the so-called university autonomy. It is crucial that the ministry wouldn’t be a total controller but would instead enable higher education institutions to form their agenda, educational process and become a part of particular needs of society, not just fulfill orders. In my opinion, this reform launches the real separation of soviet heritage in Ukrainian education.

The year 2020 highlighted many weak spots of contemporary society and societies in general. It demonstrated that the biggest weakness of a modern person is his or her ability or inability to create interpersonal relations. Obviously, we can be in contact with hundreds of people, but the online work regime causes burnout. In natural communication, we can only build real human relations with a limited number of people, and now it seems like we are required to broaden those numbers to hundreds of people. It exhausts our ability to build full-blooded, deep relationships.

Freedom is the ability to do good and do it not only because someone forces me but also because I understand it’s the right thing to do. It is quite immature to force someone to do something or to forbid something to someone. A mature person is someone who consciously chooses from many different possibilities what is good, useful, and helps my neighbor and me to become better. 

A modern young person in Ukraine lacks somebody, who would be interested in him or her, who would be concerned about his or her endeavours, interests or pains. This person lacks a community that would wish him or her all the best professionally, in a modern way, progressively, and where they would help make the next step.

Prior to the pandemic, we sometimes underestimated or devalued meetings with people, or, even sitting around the table, we would stare at the gadgets and ignore the presence of someone close by. I hope that the circumstances of the pandemic, which caused the transition to online learning, would provoke a particular thirst in students and professors, the need to meet in person and not through the flat screen.

Today every student needs a teacher, who wouldn’t block the road, but lead to the original sources. As for the relations between the students, they should form a community of those seeking the truth together, cooperate, and share experiences for the sake of mutual growth.

The rector of today’s higher education institution must be a true creative leader of the intellectual, academic environment. This is a certain vocation, charisma – the ability to lead. He must also be a good educator, a father who, on the one hand, watches over the whole community of the university, and on the other hand, really feels the students who are the addressees of the work of this academic community.

Translated by Kylyna Kurochka

About the project:

The special project “University of the XXI century” of the media outlet The Ukrainians and Ukrainian Catholic University, in which experts from various spheres speak about problems, challenges, and tasks of the contemporary university and offer their ideas how the higher education should look.




Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav To the Clergy

Dearly Beloved Brothers in the Priesthood of Christ!

This year, as we experience the profound mystery of Holy Thursday, we hear the special invitation of our Lord Jesus Christ to once again sit down with Him at the mystical banquet of the Last Supper. Our spiritual eyes are directed towards the only and eternal Celebrant of the Divine Liturgy—our Saviour and Teacher, who leans down towards contemporary humanity, wounded by the current pandemic, and scourged by new types of loneliness, poverty, suffering, and despair. This Servant-Minister rises from His place of honour at table, disrobes and, taking a washbasin, gets down on His knees before present-day humanity in order to wash its feet.

In order to fulfill this ministry today and make it accessible for all people, He calls on us, His priests, to reimagine in a new way the content and tasks of our priestly ministry. It is in us and through us that He wishes to get on His knees in order to lean down towards the world. It is with our hands that He longs to wash the wounds of contemporary societies. It is us whom He made partakers of His Divine Priesthood and to us He handed over His Holy Mysteries as medicine, capable of healing these wounds by the power and action of the Holy Spirit. Gazing at this ineffable divine ministry in contemporary circumstances and events, on the occasion of the day in which the Holy Mystery of the New Testament Priesthood was established, we ask ourselves: what does it mean today to be a priest of Christ “after the order of Melchisedek” and how should we act, in order to be faithful to our vocation and to the will of our Lord?

In pandemic conditions the Lord speaks to His disciples and to the world, compels us to reflect on how we should “be Church” in this time of “social distancing and isolation,” on the lasting impact this time will have on the life of Christians. The Saviour calls us to learn to differentiate between that which is substantive and a priority for the Church at this time—without which we cannot be authentic disciples of Christ—and that which is less important and can be disregarded; what decisions need to be made in this testing time in order to reorient the spiritual life of the people.

In the course of the past year, we have learned, as never before, to use contemporary social media communication technologies in a new way. Indeed, in many cases, online broadcasts of liturgical services were the only means available to our faithful to satisfy their spiritual needs. However, Pope Francis, understanding well that the path to a full restoration of the normal rhythm of life will take time, insistently encourages all the faithful to accept this time as a temporary phenomenon, in the midst of extraordinary and forced circumstances, for the ideal of the Church was and will always remain—to gather together the people, be with them and bring them together in the Holy Mysteries. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Mt. 18:20) – says the Lord. For this reason the Holy Father cautions against an abstract connection between God and the community, saying: “This closeness to Christ without community, without the Eucharist, without the people of God assembled together and without the sacraments is dangerous.” We can pray together with the assistance of live broadcasts, we can listen to the Word of God and preach the Gospel of Christ, but in this manner we cannot administer the Holy Mysteries, without which the fullness of Christian life simply does not exist.

When the contemporary world speaks ever increasingly of economic and social crises and even about the danger of a famine of biblical proportions for contemporary humanity as a result of the pandemic, our faithful begin to call out to the conscience of their pastors, attesting to their eucharistic famine. Speaking to His Apostles, Jesus said: “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (Mt. 14:16), telling them to give of what they had in the desert, thus making them capable of feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes. Today, He says the same to His priests, having in mind not only the need for earthly bread, but also hunger and thirst for the Heavenly Bread. Our people love work enough to be able to provide daily bread for themselves, but only a priest of Christ can feed them with Heavenly Bread. Let us heed this cry that expresses the Eucharistic hunger and spiritual thirst of our people!

Even though the circumstances in which humanity has found itself because of the pandemic continue to influence our church life, yet even when strict quarantine measures are introduced, such external factors cannot paralyze us in our ministry and church life, cannot prevent us, as Church, from continuing to care for human souls. However, it is necessary to reflect on the style and new forms of pastoral ministry during and, especially, after the coronavirus pandemic. I am certain that this crisis is an occasion for pastoral conversion, as Pope Francis says in his Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudium evangelii” (par. 27). Today, at the level of the Universal Church it is said that possibly the most effective method of fulfilling spiritual care is through accompaniment. This method can help keep the clergy from returning to the pre-pandemic “old normal,” and make radical changes for the better, beginning with the building of healthy interpersonal relationships. This includes the need to rethink and modify the form of our pastoral ministry, seeking to be next to a person , guiding him or her on the path of life. In order to be present in the life of our parishioners, in order to know them and be able to listen to them, we must find a way to them through relationships. To be close to a human being, connect with him or her and guide them in the living circumstances of today—this is something more than merely being concerned about the good of our parishioners.

During the pandemic we thank God for many good priests, who not just passively stand by their parishioners, but through preaching the Word of God, celebrating the Divine Mysteries, and performing works of mercy make our Lord God visible and present to each person, especially in the dramatic moments of their lives. They personally accompany their faithful, give of themselves fully in their service, take unto themselves their difficulties and pain, show them compassion in their suffering, and find happiness in their joys. The pledge to successful conversion, of which the Holy Father speaks, is to change the manner in which we stand with our people, the manner in which we are priests, relate to civil authority, society as a whole, the youth and our parishioners., This is a difficult but important task!

And so, in the circumstances of today, a priest is called to build a new Christian culture of relationship. Loneliness without community may lead to escape, to isolation, and even to deep depression. Most probably, we have realized more than once that life in community, where people live in fraternal love, makes a greater impact than impressive and splendid edifices. This is why we are called to not only create and adorn the church built by human hands, but above all to foster the beauty and grandeur of the temple that is not built by human hands—a human being, and to build the Church as a living community, as the mystical Body of Christ.

In times of quarantine, we rediscovered for ourselves the importance of interpersonal relations and the value of human solidarity, and also—that not one of us is saved alone, as Pope Francis frequently reminds us. We’ve understood that the ability to relate in person, to listen and speak, is more precious than all our modern technologies, which, even though they support our lives, helping us take part in the Eucharistic service through social media, but can never be able to guarantee for us a real encounter, one person with another, and with the living God in common prayer. We can meet online, but to teach and love only online—that’s difficult, if not effectively impossible. Therefore, there is always a need for healthy, complete, and authentic human relations.

This important building up of a new type of interpersonal relations, founded on the Gospel leaven of merciful and compassionate love, must begin from our immediate surroundings—our community, with our bishop and among ourselves. I assume that all of you are already convinced of the importance of vibrant contacts and a sincere relationship within the priestly community.

On the day of our ordination, we became members of the presbyteral order. And so, especially today, it is important to realize that this order is not something akin to an elite club with special clergy privileges. This is a living brotherly community of the Christ’s closest disciples and sharers in His priesthood. Sustained by the Holy Spirit, today it should become for our clergy a place for mutual listening and support, solidarity and assistance, a sharing of hurts and joys, failures and successes—a place of maturing in the priesthood of Christ. “Look, how they love one another”—is what pagan society would say with admiration, observing the life of early Christians. May these same words express the admiration of today’s world, in response to seeing the authentic Christian solidarity of our communities. One of the effective ways of fostering such priestly communion is the presence of priestly fraternities, which I continue to encourage you to establish and join.

Dear Fathers, Hieromonks, Deacons and Brother-seminarians! This day, when we celebrate the Institution of the Holy Mystery of the Priesthood, I long to greet all of you as we remember this great gift that God has bestowed on us. I thank you from my heart that at a certain time you responded to this calling from the Lord and, having received the Holy Mystery of the Priesthood, you do not neglect this gift, but live it, grow in it, and bear fruit. This day the entire Church together with her Head—Jesus Christ, prays for you! May the grace of the Holy Spirit strengthen you in this ministry, endow you with creativity and sensitivity in the search for new forms and methods in its realization, so that we might help the person of today increasingly experience within our church communities a healing and saving encounter with the living Christ.

Entering this Paschal time, I wish you the heavenly joy that comes from fulfilling the task, that we are able to offer the Risen Lord according to His word: “”We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty” (Lk. 17:10).

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

+ SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv

at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,

on the Day of the Holy Martyr Eupsichius, April 22, 2021 A.D.