Pastoral Letter of the 2022 Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church to the Clergy, Monastics and Laity of the UGCC and to All People of Good Will

Beloved in Christ!

For the fifth month, a large-scale, brutal war has been taking place on Ukrainian soil. It came uninvited and perfidious already in 2014, and from February 24, the enemy took off all his previous masks and openly destroys Ukraine.

The russian army kills the innocent and rapes the defenseless, kidnaps children and deports the occupied, tortures prisoners and starves the besieged, steals the grain we grow and loots our homes, annexes lands and destroys seized enterprises, fires at peaceful cities and terrorizes residents. The russian leadership seeks to destroy Ukrainian statehood and deprive us of our name. “You have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence” (Jer. 22:17). Again, as in the 20th century, the territory of our Fatherland has turned into “bloody lands.”

We strongly condemn this war! Because “the way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Prov. 15:9). The world has a moral obligation to turn back this aggression against Ukraine!

The aggressor’s intentions are plainly genocidal: from the first days, the war tactics show that he is not fighting the army, but the people. Russia is trying to satisfy its imperial appetites: its leadership considers Ukraine a colony, a not-a-state that is not worthy of a place on the political map of the world. To be great, an empire needs colonies—enslaved, conquered lands, resources, slaves. Colonial genocidal logic dictates scorched earth tactics that spare no one and nothing. It holds nothing sacred—neither the elderly person, nor the pregnant woman, neither the baby in a maternity hospital, nor children hiding in a theatre. It sees no value in a historical monument or industrial city, a residential building with hundreds of residents or hectares of ripe grain. Everyone and everything can be destroyed “for the sake of operational tasks.” Every day, as if in a daze, the whole world contemplates the barbarism, moral decay, and vileness of the attackers. Ukraine, on the other hand, defends itself, because its people, once and for all, have refused to become slaves, they simply strive to live their God-given life and God-given dignity in freedom. No one dares to take this away from him – thus says the Lord.

Ukraine does not want to conquer or humiliate russia. It wants the aggressor neighbour—having a territory 28 times larger, stretching across 11 time zones, and a population almost four times larger—to stop its centuries-old attempts to enslave and destroy Ukraine, to free itself from the pathology of imperialism and become a law-based state that respects the rights of others. The thief must leave our house! The Russian Orthodox Church must stop ideologically promoting the heresy of the “Russian world”! At a time when various Christian Churches are rethinking with repentance their historical role in the policy of colonialism and the practice of slavery, the Russian Orthodox Church is leading its faithful into the moral darkness of violence, aggression, and war crimes. The salt has lost its taste, and the light has stopped shining (cf. Mt. 5:13-16).

The war of the invader has caused a humanitarian and ecological catastrophe, an economic and demographic crisis in our country. In five months, up to nine million residents have left Ukraine, in particular, two million adults and children have been forcibly deported by the occupier to russia, and an estimated seven million have been forced to become internally displaced persons, 15.6 million are in need of humanitarian support. Thousands of families are separated by kilometres and borders. The number of widows and orphans is increasing daily. The aggressor is doing everything to turn our Fatherland into an uninhabitable territory, cities and regions remain deserted. The scale of this massive demographic shift is beyond our comprehension, but we will feel its effects for decades.

The tragedy of the war has profoundly wounded our Church directly. Some of our parishes are occupied and plundered. After all, over the past centuries, every time the boot of the russian occupier—be it tsarist, Soviet, or putinian—stepped on our land, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church was persecuted and destroyed. However, each time, bearing witness to her faith and showing endurance in persecution, by the Lord’s will she was restored with a new strength. We believe and know that it will be so this time as well. We express solidarity and support to our bishops, priests, consecrated persons, lay faithful, who are on the front lines and in the occupied territories, or have been forced to leave their homes and parishes. We believe that you will return to your homes, and our parishes will revive and develop. We express words of brotherhood and solidarity to the Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims of Ukraine, who are under mortal threat no less than we. We stand together!

The courage and unity of our people in defending their independence has been unexpected even for many Ukrainians, not to mention for other countries. Heroic military resistance, dedication and sacrifice of volunteers, unity, and unanimity of religious communities, which have turned into important centres of mutual aid and love for one’s neighbour, provide proof that such a people cannot be enslaved.

They wanted to bury us, but they did not know that we are seeds. This saying has become a slogan of the indomitability, resilience, and strength of resistance to difficulties that Ukrainians are demonstrating. It echoes the saying of the Christian writer Tertullian: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” We bow our heads to all those who have sacrificed and are sacrificing themselves to protect the innocent, to defend the truth, to stand up for our sacred God-given human dignity.

Tremendous painful sacrifice, because it is authentic and paschal, bears abundant, life-giving fruit. In the midst of death, which the enemy sows everywhere using his full arsenal of malice and hatred, emerge sprouts of immeasurable strength and nobility. God has ignited the souls of Ukrainians with faith in the victory of God’s truth. In an era of relativistic dictatorship, Ukrainians clearly call things by their name: there is truth, goodness, principles, and values by which one should live and for which one can even die, and there are lies and insidious evil. Ukraine has united Europe, healing its cracks, and inspired people of goodwill all over the world. The Sacred Scriptures come alive before the eyes of humanity, and the Lord of history manifests a miracle: David confronts Goliath. Ukrainian soldiers who protect from the onslaught their hometowns, the lives of relatives and loved ones, the freedom and dignity of the people, together with David say: “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts… whom you have defied” (1 Sam. 17:45). We express our sincere recognition to all those who selflessly stand for truth and justice.

We thank the priests-chaplains who, risking their lives, stand alongside our defenders, pray with them, carry Christ to them and provide humanitarian support.

Through her suffering and desperate struggle for existence, Ukraine has become the epicentre of global changes. Many people and nations are losing their blinders: it becomes clear that cheap resources are not worth the cost of enabling dictators; that the world security system is weakened and peace is threatened if, for the sake of prosperity, attention is not paid to divine principles and the behaviour of violators is ignored; that no man or country is a distant island, but that all humanity is interconnected at different levels, and if injustice is done to one country, others cannot be indifferent. “Never again” is transformed from a historical slogan into a moral imperative.

By God’s will, the truth has become clear, and the lie has faded away, because “no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21). The very fact of russia’s unprovoked aggression, reinforced by the war crimes of the russian occupiers, has caused a huge wave of support for Ukrainians in the world. The unprecedented level of humanitarian assistance to refugees and temporarily displaced persons is an authentic testimony to Christian love: “I was a refugee, and you received Me; I was in trouble, and you came to Me” (cf. Mt. 25:35-36). For this hospitality and generosity of various peoples, Churches, bishops, priests, monks and nuns, lay faithful and people of good will in various countries on various continents we express our deep gratitude. We also express our sincere thanks to the monasteries, religious orders, and congregations in Ukraine and abroad, that have accepted thousands of forcibly displaced persons and share with them everything they have. As in the times of the first Christian communities, the abundance in some overcame the need in others (cf. 2 Cor. 8:14).

These days, we ask ourselves: What gives us the strength to fight and resist an enemy who outnumbers us tenfold in military might? If we revise the question to “Who” gives us the strength, then the answer becomes obvious. God gives us strength because He is the Lord of powers. Why? Because we love! The power of Ukrainians is the power of love. Our soldiers are guided by the principle, not of hating others, but of love for their own— children, loved ones, parents, friends, land, native streets, morning dawns, fogs… Love is manifested in the tireless work of volunteers, in the generous donations of millions, in sincere silent prayer. And through this love we have already won.

This moral high ground must be preserved. We will ultimately win only if we continue to love, if we do not deviate one iota from the biblical formula for this victory: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Love gives birth to heroes, and hate—criminals. The cruelty of war dehumanizes, and so we, as a nation defending itself and as a Church uniting the people in Christ’s family, must make every effort to preserve our dignity and humanity, without ever stooping down to the inhumanity and atrocities of the aggressor. Let us protect the hearts of our soldiers from evil, so that they remain warriors of light and goodness! Let us safeguard our own hearts! Let us turn our anger and resentment into courage, indomitability, true wisdom, and the victory of God’s truth. St. Paul urges us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).

How to be Church?

The principles which we adopted in the Pastoral Letter of 2021, “The Hope to Which the Lord Calls Us,” reflecting on our future and establishing the pastoral priorities of our Church for the next decade, are brought to the fore and acquire particular meaning against the backdrop of the war. Drawing on the experience of the pandemic, which deeply affected social bonds and structures, we emphasized the need for pastoral conversion, for building networks of communion, for healing wounds and for closeness and practical attention to the poor and marginalized. Based on the experience of our communities, we sought to describe a methodology, and the war created a context in which each of us can reflect more deeply on what this methodology and these principles mean and to what practical conclusions and actions they lead.

Our pastoral conversion will mean being close to our faithful—in suffering, grief, trials, death. “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor. 12:26). The expression “smell like the sheep” returns to its original, radical Christian meaning—to give one’s life for the entrusted sheepfold. The war prompts us to continue building bonds of solidarity between people, parishes, and countries with new fervour and resilience; new, hitherto unheard-of, wounds will require persistent prayer and generous labour from everyone, so that with the oil of divine mercy and human compassion they might be healed and transformed into sources of hope; while helping the poor and marginalized will require from us new approaches and creativity in love.

In October 2021, at the opening of the Synod of Bishops of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis emphasized that we are called to unity, communion, brotherhood, which appear precisely when we realize that we are all equally embraced by God’s love. In other words, our unity or solidarity is not a social construct, but our identity in response to God’s love. “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8).

War radically teaches us, through the pain, sacrifices, and grief it brings each day, to be the Church of Christ: to believe unshakably in the power of good and to live with active love. “For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn. 4:20).

We are called to be a Church that is close

In Ukraine and abroad, our parishes create networks of prayer and support. Along with prayers for peace, rescue, the wounded and fallen, appeals resound to collect donations, find volunteers, pack and unpack material resources. The difficult, meticulous work continues. Through the witness of the Church and our faithful in different countries of the world, the truth is being spread and the awareness of what people in Ukraine are experiencing grows. A church that is close to suffering, to human grief, is alive and will not become a museum.

We are called to be a Church that listens

Chaplains and priests, representatives of monasticism or lay faithful, who worked with those who survived occupation, shelling, mutilation, or loss of relatives, note that the most important words of consolation are “I am with you!” Contact, attention, humaneness, prayer—these are the main tools for pastoral care in time of war. To listen to the other, to hear his or her story, to accept his or her pain—in our circumstances this is what it means to be Church.

We are called to be a Church that heals wounds

During his earthly mission, Christ healed the blind, crippled, possessed, in order to ultimately heal humanity and every human being from the disease of death and sin. Christ handed over to the Church his ministry of healing wounds, of making others whole. In time of war the healing of spiritual wounds, of dealing with trauma and stress is one of the primary tasks of the Church and its ministers. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2). The wounds and traumas of the people we are called to serve are mostly visible and obvious, but sometimes they are hidden or wrapped up in bandages of anger, fear, feigned detachment.

The Church, being herself wounded by the suffering and pain of the disaster of war, is called to bring to every destitute and wounded person the medicinal grace of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Mysteries (Sacraments) and in spiritual accompaniment, the medicine of consolation and merciful love. In human wounds we recognize the wounds of our Saviour, and, in touching human suffering, we rediscover contact with the risen Christ, whose wounds became a sign of God’s ultimate victory over the dark and destructive forces of sin.

Thus, in his Son, crucified for the sins of all people and raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, God the Father Himself comes to meet His suffering children and turns human patience into a source of hope and eternal life. The word of God through the mouth of the holy apostle Paul assures us of this: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” (Rom. 6:8-10).

We are called to be a Church that prays for peace and seeks justice

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” (Jn. 14:27). Peace is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in the midst of the pain of daily distressing news, the Church ceaselessly beseeches the Lord for peace for a long-suffering Ukraine and works together with others for the restoration of peace and justice in our land.

We are called to be a Church that gives hope

We, Christians, are people of hope not because we “hope for something better,” but because we believe in God and in the eternal life to which the Lord invites us. Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). Paradoxically, it is precisely this faith that allows us fully and deeply to experience earthly events, this war in particular. From the perspective of eternity, everyday reality is not blurred, but, on the contrary, it acquires clear contours, the sacred value of each person is brought to the fore.

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! Because of the pandemic, we, the bishops of the UGCC, have not seen each other in person in three years. However, the joy of our brotherly meeting has been overshadowed by the horrors of war. It was the war, the suffering it inflicts on our people, and the latest challenges caused by russian military aggression against our Fatherland, that were at the centre of our prayers, conversations, and synodal meetings. In addition, during this year’s session of the Synod, we reflected on the topic “Synodality and sobornist: the experience of the UGCC.” In the context of the present circumstances, this is not an abstract topic. On the contrary, the calamity that our state and our people are experiencing called on us to rediscover the power of unity and the need for daily and enduring solidarity for the sake of victory. “In unity is the strength of the people. God, give us unity!” We felt even more keenly that we were called to strengthen unity within the country, and to support our faithful and all people of good will outside its borders.

May the power and action of the Holy Spirit give us unshakable unity and faith in the victory of God’s truth!

May the Lord strengthen and bless our defenders, volunteers, doctors, employees of the State Emergency Service, the lawful government of Ukraine and all those who protect and liberate Ukraine from the aggressor!

May He embrace the families of those who have died, the orphans and widows, the prisoners and the missing in action!

May He grant eternal reward and fullness of life to the fallen!

May the oil of merciful love heal the physical, mental, and spiritual wounds of the victims!

Through the prayers of the Most Holy Theotokos and all the saints of the land of Ukraine, may He bestow his peace and blessings on the whole world!

 

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

 

 

On behalf of the Synod of Bishops of the

Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

 

 

 

SVIATOSLAV

 

Given in Przemyśl,

at the Cathedral of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist,

on the Day of the Placing of the Precious Robe of

Our Most Holy Lady and Theotokos in Blachernae,

on July 15, 2022 A.D.




SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST: Healing of a Paralytic

Many would come to the Lord and seek healing. The request for healing could come from the individual in need, such as the crippled man at the pool of Bethesda or the man born blind. In today’s gospel, it is a group of four men who do “a good deed” and carry the paralytic man on a pallet and then lower the paralytic down through an opening in the roof due to the crowded area and place him right alongside Jesus.

Once again, we hear that it is faith that is needed for the Lord to effect the cure. “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2) We are to believe that Jesus is Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah Whom the Prophets foretold would come to deliver us from sin and all its evil consequences.

From time to time, we all are in need of healing, whether physical or spiritual or both. Some of us are in greater need and others less. The Lord God Who is the Physician (Healer) of soul and body can provide us with that gift, the grace of healing. We who seek healing are to have faith and co-operate with the grace of God.

There is a Ukrainian saying, proverb, that “Health is wealth.” Along with having good physical health, one is to have a good and healthy outlook on life itself and in dealing with others. Most individuals are ready and willing to “celebrate life” and should be thankful to God for the gift of life and good health. Let’s remember that it is God Who is the source of all goodness.

Physical and spiritual health go together and are interrelated. Spiritual health is to be freed, delivered from sin. Nonetheless, the Lord reminds us that of the two, spiritual health which leads to salvation of soul is to be first and foremost in our daily lives. We may sojourn seeking “the good” here on earth; however, we know that the earthly is temporal and temporary. For us, true-believers, we know and understand that this is not our final or ultimate destination. Rather, we are to walk “the straight and narrow path” leading to the Heavenly City, the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven.

So, whenever pain and suffering come our way and it will, we are to face it not alone but along with Christ. And if our community, church or parish be truly Christian, then our caring for others will be all-inclusive, excluding no one and welcoming all. Christ will truly be in our midst.

St. Paul reminds us Christians that the joy of one is to be the joy of all. But he also reminds us that the ache of one is to be the ache of all. The joy many may be willing and ready to participate and “celebrate” the good times, those without any pain or suffering.

Just as it is a sign of a “true friend” when he or she stands alongside the other in less than easy times, so too it’s a sign of a true Christian and member of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. Having the spirit of Christian unity and solidarity the other members of the Mystical Body of Christ could be counted on to the other member in need. The Church community would be able to “lighten” the burden and to make “more bearable” the pain and suffering that individual or individuals encounter. Our love of God and love of neighbor, brother or sister in Christ in need, would be manifest in concrete acts of compassion, charity and mercy.

This spirit of caring is not just a thought or desire. It provides help in the “here and now.” The spiritual and corporal works of mercy are but just some of the good deeds to be done. All in all, it is a work of compassion, suffering along with the other person who is a child of God. This charitable spirit of caring may be shown in the ordinary events of the day. It may be a smile or a kind word which costs us nothing, except a little time and effort to actually do so.

Prayer is always a possibility and can and should be done frequently. We turn and focus our attention to God Who can do all things. With the Lord God, there is nothing impossible. He is the Omnipotent, the All-Powerful, Almighty  God, Who can work “miracles.”

Prayer empowers and enables us to face the challenges and difficulties encountered in the world today and each and every day. With faith, hope and patient endurance, the steadfast Christian remains positive in one’s approach and thinking. This positive attitude prevents any one of us from giving up hope and becoming despondent. We offer up our pains and sufferings along with those of Christ on the Cross Who redeemed mankind of sin.

God does not want us to go it alone in this life. God wants us to turn to Him in the hour of need. But the Lord God also wants and expects us to be sensitive to the needs of our “less fortunate” brother or sister in Christ. Having the spirit of Christ, Total Love and Total Truth, we are ready and willing to do our part in making the world “a better place” for everyone. Our earthly destiny as an individual and as a group depends upon it. Besides all this and moreso, our eternal destiny will so be determined. The Lord, the merciful but just Judge, shall one day determine if each person did or did not show compassion, charity and mercy to the “less fortunate” one in need. And so our eternal destination will be determined – entry into the Eternal Kingdom of Heaven or not.

And this display, manifestation, of a lived faith is required of each of us. For in the words of St. Pope John Paul II of blessed memory stated that “It is our duty to lessen the suffering of those who suffer.”

Keep the faith, live in the spirit of Christ, letting our light shine brightly before men so that they may see the goodness of our deeds. Do this so that many souls may be saved!

Rev. D. George Worschak




EASTER PASTORAL LETTER OF THE UKRAINIAN CATHOLIC HIERARCHS IN THE USA

The myrrh-bearing women at the break of dawn

drew near to the tomb of the Lifegiver.

There they found an angel sitting upon the stone,

he greeted them with these words:

Why do you seek the living among the dead?

Why do you mourn the incorrupt amid corruption?

Go: proclaim the glad tidings to His disciples.

 

Paschal Stikherion

Christ is Risen!

Dear Sisters and Brothers!

Great Lent—marked by the inexpressible pain of invasion, war crimes, murder, and lies about our people and our Church on the part of the aggressor—has passed. Now we see the Resurrection. Our Ukrainian people live, unite all people of goodwill, and give new meaning to Europe and the global community. In a sacramental way, we witness a paschal passage from death to life.

Today, we repeat the lofty, joyous Easter troparion: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and to those in the tombs giving life.” The crux of our faith and our victory is found in this concise chant. The entire Gospel is a preface preparing the reader for the central story of Pascha. For “…if Christ did not rise” – thus radically writes the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians — “then what we preach is vain, and vain is our faith” (I Cor. 15:14). Without the Resurrection, what we preach becomes a set of rules and obligations. Participation in church life sinks to the conservation of traditions and rituals, empty and lacking substance.

But the Lord is risen indeed, that we might live with Him forever!

For this reason, in his Easter sermon St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, author of the Divine Liturgy, which we pray each Sunday, affirms that all are to enter into the joy of the Resurrection – the rich and poor, the continent and careless, those who fasted and those who did not. The feast is so great that this is not the time to get lost in details but to focus on the main thing — Christ is Risen!

In His love for humanity, the immortal and eternal God entered fully into our lives and took on our trials and sufferings – ultimately death. Yet this is not the end of the story.

Drawing near to the tomb with the myrrh-bearing women, we discover that Christ is alive. He has come alive not like a superhero in a film or a computer game, but as the Creator and the Christ – the source of life, who taking on our death, has risen from the dead and given life to all humanity.

Life reigns, and death is vanquished. Defeating death, Christ has made us victors too. Can you believe it? In Christ we are all conquerors of death!

It is crucial to grasp this truth. Our loved ones, whose passing we mourn, are among those to whom Christ has given new life. Among those who live in Christ are the murdered inhabitants of Bucha, Borodianka, Hostomel, Mariupol, and Kramatorsk. Among the living, over whom death has no power, are the fallen soldiers who gave their lives in testimony to the greatest love. The sufferings of the brutal aggressors’ innocent victims – executed, trampled, suffocated – have ended. Death, and the fear of death, rule over them no more. With the Apostle Paul they mock death: “Where, O death, is thy sting? Where, O Hades, is thy victory?” (I Cor. 15:55). They have seen death, and in Christ, its ultimate defeat.

Do we believe? Do we realize that the Lord has vanquished death, sin, and the devil, and that our sufferings—however great and painful—are temporary, for death no longer has power over us? Are we ready to announce the good news of God’s triumph?

We appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, to look at the event of the Resurrection not only through the prism of our beautiful and profound rituals and traditions, but to focus on the essence of the Easter message for each of us who face death: Christ is risen from the dead, with His humble death on the cross He has overcome death, and with His sacrifice, He has given life to each of us.

Let us proclaim Christ’s Resurrection and our own!

+ Borys Gudziak

Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia

of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the USA

+ Paul Chomnycky

Bishop of the Eparchy of Stamford

+ Benedict Aleksiychuk

Bishop of Saint Nicholas Eparchy of Chicago

+ Bohdan Danylo

Bishop of Saint Josaphat Eparchy of Parma

+ Andriy Rabiy

Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia




EASTER PASTORAL LETTER OF HIS BEATITUDE SVIATOSLAV

Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops,

Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers,

Venerable Brothers and Sisters in Monastic and Religious Life,

 Dearly Beloved Laity in Christ of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

Christ is Risen!

 

You have descended into the depths of the earth, O Christ,

And have broken the eternal bonds which held the captive, 

And like Jonah from the whale on the third day,

You arose from the tomb!

Ode 6, Paschal Canon

Beloved in Christ!

This year we approach the Pascha of Christ in the midst of particular challenges, suffering, cruelty, indignities, and ruin. For our people, in Ukraine and abroad, it would seem that the cross of our Lord was abruptly thrust upon our shoulders from the very beginning of Great Lent, and we have already been carrying it not for a day or two, a week or two, but continuously, day and night. For us, Holy Friday has become our daily bread, our everyday reality, and we do not know when the glorious day of victory over evil, hate, and violence will come. However, precisely today our Lord calls on us to have no doubt in the victory of light over darkness, life over death, truth over falsehood, and He assures us of His love and grace. From Him, our Risen Saviour, we draw strength in the midst of our suffering today. He is the source of our hope. Therefore, together with the apostle Paul, we say today: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair… For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:8,11). In that spirit with confidence, we greet one another with the victorious salutation: Christ is risen! Truly, He is risen!

You have descended into the depths of the earth, O Christ…

In His suffering and death on the cross, Christ descends into the depths of our fallen human nature. Accepting the worst cruelty—betrayal, unlawful condemnation, mockery, spitting, strikes in the face, scourging, and killing (see Mk. 10:33-34), the Son of God takes upon Himself all the consequences of human sin. He touches the furthest distance from God, the worst human downfall, the greatest defacement of dignity, for which mankind was created. Possibly, this week in the context of war, when we read or listened to the Passion Gospels, we especially felt and experienced all that our Lord underwent for our salvation.

At the same time we have become aware of how human nature remains fallen, how the devil continues to control human beings, who have no God in their hearts. He who sows hatred and instigates war against one’s neighbour, opposes the Almighty. All war is a clear manifestation of the ruinous, murderous action of the devil, for only the evil one is able to spread fear and carry death in such a manner, is able to inflict such wounds, and destruction, and pain, and loss. And even when the path to recovery and healing of trauma may seem distant, closed, or unpassable for those suffering, we must remember that with the Risen Christ there is nothing that cannot be conquered or healed.

The war of russia against Ukraine is the latest war of a prison of nations that seeks to reestablish itself before our very eyes. The occupier once again brings to us chains, with which entire generations of our ancestors were fettered. The chains that bound the arms of cossacks who built Saint Petersburg. The chains that for centuries bound the intellectual and ecclesial life of Ukraine. The chains of serfs, chains of the Holodomor, chains of millions of deported and exiled Ukrainians, whose bones are strewn across the vast Siberian expanse “to the ends of the earth.” The ideologues of russia’s war against Ukraine state openly that our existence is a mistake of history—one that must be rectified precisely through “eternal bonds” of death and destruction. This is a war against the very right of the Ukrainian people to its own history, language, and culture, to its own independent country, its own existence.

From a spiritual perspective it has become clear how our aggressive neighbour is unable to cast aside his false idols and how in them he continues to pursue his greatness at our cost. With his cruise missiles, bombs, and artillery shells, he seeks to instill fear, to drive us into the depths of the earth and non-existence, to bind us with eternal chains. And precisely in those underground shelters a miracle takes place—one of common prayer, selfless help of neighbour, unbroken spirit, and of demonstrating the power of the presence of God.

And have broken the eternal bonds which held the captive…

Our traditional icon of Christ’s Resurrection is the icon of the Descent into Hades. On it we find depicted the dislodged doors of hell and the broken chains of sin. The Resurrection of Christ is a feast of victory—victory of life over death, of Divine truth over diabolical falsehood, of love over hate. One of our soldiers wrote on his helmet the following prayer: “God, if I am killed on the field of battle, take me into paradise, for I have already been in hell!” In His resurrection Christ emerges not only from the empty tomb, but from the depths of hell and from deadly captivity for humankind. He emerges not alone, but by taking our forebearers Adam and Eve by the hand, he leads all humanity out of the bonds of death. He takes the hand of our soldiers and volunteers, our civilian population, who have seen the hell of russian occupation—he takes the hand of Ukraine and leads it to resurrection, filling it with the paschal joy of the victorious hymn, “Christ is risen!”

Today, when Ukraine is defending itself against an insidious foe, more than ever we are called to spiritual warfare, remembering that evil can only be overcome by good. Saint Paul reminds us that we must be cautious, so that in the midst of the horrors of war we remain human and not fall into the devil’s trap of malice and hate: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery… For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Gal. 5:1,14). And then he encourages each of us to open up to Divine grace and allow the Holy Spirit to bear His life-giving fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22-23).

Pascha is the feast of the victory of love over hatred, of joy over sorrow, of peace over war, of patience over panic, of kindness over anger, of faithfulness over betrayal, of gentleness over unrest, of self-control over voracity. Pascha is the victory of spirit over flesh, of truth over mendacity, of life over death. Christ rose from the tomb in order to raise up and grant victory to those, who have been swallowed up by death, slavery, and degradation, as once was Jonah by the whale.

And like Jonah from the whale on the third day, You arose from the tomb!

What an irony it is that the enemy planned to celebrate his victory in the capital city of Kyiv in three days! He thought that he would quickly swallow up an entire people, but his insidious plans were broken by the heroism of our armed forces. In reality, it is Christ, risen on the third day from the tomb, who grants us who believe in His resurrection, faith in victory over hell and death. St. John Chrysostom, in his paschal sermon, notes that the enemy of the human race “took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.” Similarly, our enemy took what he saw, but fell because of what he failed to see—the power of the spirit, faith, and love of our people! Our victory, the victory of Ukraine, flows from the power of the risen Christ, who leads us out of the depths of the horrors of war and death, who breaks the eternal bonds and victoriously leads us to life. To celebrate the Pascha of Christ in a time of war is to already taste our victory. Let us have no doubt!

The one who brings death is destined for defeat because Ukraine is celebrating Pascha! Again, John Chrysostom, echoing the words of the Apostle of the Gentiles (see 1 Cor. 15:55), proclaims: “O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Voskres Khrystos, and the demons are fallen. Anesti Chrystos, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life flows freely.” The one who sought to enslave us by death is already defeated, for his main weapons of colonization and aggression have been destroyed by Christ Himself through His death on the cross and glorious Resurrection.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! Today I extend to all of you my fatherly and brotherly embrace, and share with you the joy of Pascha. I embrace all who fight on different fronts—spiritual and physical, especially our unbreakable soldiers, our dedicated pastors, and tireless volunteers. I embrace with paschal joy all who have been forced to leave their home and even their native land, and pray for your speedy return in a time of peace, which will surely arrive. I embrace in prayer all the wounded, so that in your suffering you feel the support, love, and gratitude of an entire nation, but especially—God’s grace and constant love. I greet all who all over the world support and assist Ukraine, in efforts both great and small. As a world community we have shown ourselves to be like a beehive, where each of us senses in spirit what he or she must do in the face of danger. I embrace those who are in occupied territories, in areas of military engagement—those who do not have the possibility to prepare an Easter basket and who sing “Christ is risen!” under the roar of cannons and exploding shells. In the hope of the resurrection, I cry and weep with all who lament their dead, from the ranks of the armed forces, and from the civilian population. May each of us today sense hope in a bright future in peace and harmony, for the Resurrection of Christ is the source of peace. May the rich symbolism of our traditional pysanka remind us that the Risen Lord is the source of heavenly gifts, of joy, goodness, victory, and eternal life.

I embrace with a fatherly love all the clergy, religious, and faithful in Ukraine and throughout the world, and sincerely wish you all a blessed Easter feast, a tasty sharing of our traditional blessed egg, and a Paschal joy that is full of light.

The grace of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

 

Christ is risen! – Truly, He is risen! 

+ SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv

at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,

on the Feast of the Annunciation of Most Holy Theotokos

April 7 (March 25), 2022 A.D.




Metropolia has collected $1,869,132.19 for the Humanitarian Aid Fund

Humanitarian Aid Fund of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States. Report No. 2 March 27, 2022

$1,869132.19 has been collected

Since Report No.1 the Humanitarian Aid Fund has supported these three initiatives:

$200,000 Caritas Ukraine (equivalent to Catholic Charities in the US)– to support Caritas’ Emergency Response to War in Ukraine Project focused on supporting vulnerable individuals in the areas of information, hygiene supplies, food, temporary shelter, family medicines, water, safe transportation, coping of stress, and delivery of humanitarian cargo to crisis locations.

$200,000 Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) – for the purchase of wound care products for war victims to be used in hospitals, medical pouches for tactical medicine, and medications for the needs of the hospitals in different regions of Ukraine. UCU has arranged the logistics for delivery in Central and Eastern Ukraine.

$119,789.31 Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) – for the purchase of SOF Tactical Tourniquets. These are the top performing medical tourniquets currently available. These tourniquets are part of a tactical medical kit, which will be stocked by UCU’s partner, the Wings of Hope Charitable Foundation. UCU has arranged the logistics for delivery in Central and Eastern Ukraine.

***

100% of the funds donated to the Humanitarian Aid Fund of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America, created by the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, Eparchy of Stamford, Eparchy of Saint Nicholas in Chicago, and Eparchy of Saint Josaphat in Parma, will go to support humanitarian aid organizations and suffering Church institutions in Ukraine.




Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States Humanitarian Aid Fund. Report No. 1: Metropolia has collected $1,124,621

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13).

Ukrainians have united the world. Their sacrifice for freedom and God-given human dignity, their love for truth and social justice, and their heroic witness of fearless solidarity are inspiring people of good will globally. Millions of Ukrainian citizens are radically incarnating the Gospel virtues as they imitate Christ in the Way of the Cross on route to a victory over death in the Resurrection.

A democracy fighting for its life has demonstrated a new maturity and given new meaning and cohesion to a fragmented Europe. Ukraine’s valor is forging shared purpose in America.

People in the United States and throughout the world are generously contributing to the address the humanitarian catastrophe in Ukraine and helping the Church heal the traumas —personal and social, material and physical, spiritual and psychological —caused by a ruthless and lawless invasion and outright war crimes. We encourage you to join this movement of mercy, love, and service by donating to the Humanitarian Aid Fund of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America.

Goal of the Humanitarian Aid Fund of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America

100% of the funds donated to the Humanitarian Aid Fund of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America, created by the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, Eparchy of Stamford, Eparchy of Saint Nicholas in Chicago, and Eparchy of Saint Josaphat in Parma, will go to support humanitarian aid organizations and suffering Church institutions in Ukraine.

The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental organization in the world. It has a long history of aiding war victims, the poor and refugees.  In Ukraine it is one of the largest NGOs meeting the needs of the downtrodden and persecuted.  On both the national level (e.g., Caritas Ukraine) and the local level (e.g., local eparchial and parochial Catholic Charities), Catholic institutions are some of the most reliable and effective institutions in serving people in Ukraine, embracing Catholics and non-Catholics alike — all people in need.  The Church itself is also suffering grievous losses as priests, bishops, employees, families and others are injured, displaced and even killed.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church in America is firmly committed to transparency in the stewardship of these funds and to ensuring that this assistance reaches those truly in need.

A list of the organizations and their carefully screened projects supported by the Humanitarian Aid Fund will be published as the monies are sent to Ukraine.

PLEASE BE GENEROUS!

 +Borys Gudziak

Archbishop of Philadelphia, Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States

Head of the Department of External Church Relations, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

+Paul Chomnycky, OSBM

Eparch of Stamford

+Benedict Aleksiychuk

Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago

+ Bohdan J. Danylo

Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma

 +Andriy Rabiy

Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia

***

March 17, 2022 Report No. 1

$1,124,621 has been collected

Currently, the Humanitarian Fund is supporting five initiatives:

$200,000                Caritas Ukraine — to be used for aid to refugees on the move and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in western Ukraine as well as humanitarian assistance in central and eastern Ukraine. This grant covers a disabling gap in funding for the transport of humanitarian convoys and supplies that Caritas is sending to Central and Eastern Ukraine as well as for transport of refugees and travel and deliveries of aid to refugees standing at the border. Caritas transferred over 300 tons of supplies in the first three weeks of the invasion. At the current rate of transfer $200,000 will cover an estimated three months of transportation costs. The grant will give assurance and freedom to Caritas to develop a longer-term program of emergency aid.

$93,458.45            Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) — for the purchase of emergency bandages and hemostatic gauze.  Each medicated bandage cost ca. $50. The UCU has arranged for the purchase in Poland, logistical transfer, and distribution of these medical supplies in Central and Eastern Ukraine.

$50,000                   Ukrainian Catholic Church Curia in Kyiv — for support of the critical central ministry of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC). The central ministries of the UGGC are assuring the continuity and coordination of the Church’s service and humanitarian efforts throughout the country. 

$30,000                   Kharkiv Exarchate — ensuring ministry to the faithful and distribution of humanitarian aid.  Kharkiv, a city of ca. 1,500,000 inhabitants, is one of the main targets of Russian bombing and artillery shelling. Some 800 residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed. A large part of the population has left the city and become refugees, but the bishops and most clergy remain in Kharkiv and at the parishes of the Kharkiv Exarchate ministering and distributing humanitarian aid.

$30,000                   Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchies in Poland — for assistance for refugees by three eparchies – the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Przemyśl–Warsaw, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Wrocław-Koszalin, and Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Olsztyn–Gdańsk.  These eparchies are part of the astounding effort of the citizens of Poland in receiving almost 2,000,000 refugees.

$403,458.45 total current expenditures towards needs in Ukraine

The exacting review and approval of other projects is underway.




Patriarch Sviatoslav Video Messages from Kyiv

March 5

March 4

March 3

March 2

March 1.

February 28

February 27.




“A pure heart create in me, O God!” (Ps. 50:10). A Lenten Letter from the Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the US

“A pure heart create in me, O God!” (Ps. 50:10)

At the celebration of every matins service, we recite Psalm 50, the great penitential prayer of King David.  King David was one of the most remarkable men who ever lived.  He was a mighty warrior, a king, a prophet, a poet, a musician, a friend, and also a penitent.  Throughout his life, David gave thanks to God for the many blessings he had received from Him.  And when he sinned greatly, he prayed: “A pure heart create in me, O God!”  He was aware that even his own repentance was a gift from God.

The most beautiful aspect of King David was not his many accomplishments and talents, but his simple and straightforward heart.  The prophet Samuel said about him: “the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him ruler of his people.” (1Sam 13:14)

Jesus is often called by the title “Son of David”.  In his simplicity of heart, David was an appropriate ancestor of our Lord, because Jesus says to us: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest.” (Mt. 11:29) In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that when his enemies plotted to kill him, Jesus withdrew peacefully, and the evangelist goes on to say that this was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the coming Messiah: “He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets.  A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench.” (Is. 42:3)

What a beautiful virtue it is to have a simple and compassionate heart!  The depraved heart is never simple.  It is always grasping, always manipulative, always putting on an act.  The depraved heart is never satisfied, never happy with itself, and habitually angry at the happiness and success of others.

But the simple heart is compassionate and is able to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” and St. Paul writes. (Rm. 12:15) The simple heart is never lonely but finds companionship in everyone.

The time of Great Lent has lost its appeal and its relevance to many in our modern society.  Could it be because Lent is so simple, and the world now is so complicated?  We are bombarded by information from all over the world that comes to us on our smart phones in the palm of our hand.  They are constantly dinging with texts and alerts and updates, informing us of the latest piece of news that can’t be missed, always accompanied by enticing advertisements to buy something to fulfill our desires.

Lent, on the other hand, is so very simple.  Lent means giving things up instead of acquiring more things.  It starts with the simple idea of giving up food.  From there we can simplify other things in our life as well.  We can turn off the twenty-four-hour news channel, switch off the cell phone for part of the day, and stop checking things online.

And with this extra time, what might we do?  For starters we might spend time with the One who is most important, the One who made us and watches over us, the One who desires us so lovingly.

We can read holy scripture and the lives of the saints.  We can pray in church and at home.  We can and must pray for our own conversion.  We can pray for those we love and those in need.  We can pray for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, because our peace-loving ancestral homeland has been forced yet again to defend herself against those who desire to enslave and destroy her.  And we can pray for the conversion of those who harbor evil intentions for Ukraine.

God tells us in holy scripture that we cannot give ourselves a simple heart, only He has the power to do that for us.  So, during this time of Great Lent let us beg God for a simple heart, a heart that does not deceive, a heart that is not greedy, a heart that rejoices in the good of others and weeps at their misfortunes, a heart that is pure and simple.  Together with King David, let us pray: “A pure heart create in me, O God!”

+Borys Gudziak

Archbishop of Philadelphia, Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States

Head of the Department of External Church Relations, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

 +Paul Chomnycky, OSBM (author)

Eparch of Stamford

+Benedict Aleksiychuk

Eparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago

+ Bohdan J. Danylo

Eparch of St. Josaphat in Parma

+Andriy Rabiy

Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia




Appeal of His Beatitude Sviatoslav on outbreak of war

Beloved in God people of Ukraine!

Our country is in danger again!

The treacherous enemy, despite his own commitments and assurances, breaking the basic norms of international law, as an unjust aggressor, stepped on Ukrainian soil, bringing with him death and destruction.

Our Ukraine, which the world fairly called “lands of blood”, which has been so many times sprinkled with the blood of martyrs and fighters for the freedom and independence of its people, calls us today to stand up for it – to defend its dignity before God and humanity, its rights for existence and the right to choose one’s future.

It is our natural right and sacred duty to defend our land and our people, our state and all that is dearest to us: family, language and culture, history and the spiritual world! We are a peaceful nation that loves children of all nations with Christian love, regardless of origin or belief, nationality or religious identity.

We do not infringe upon others and do not threaten anyone, but we have no right to give our own to anyone! At this historic moment, the voice of our conscience calls us all as one to stand up for a free, united and independent Ukrainian State!

The history of the last century teaches us that all those who started world wars lost them, and the idolaters of war brought only destruction and decline to their own states and peoples.

We believe that in this historic moment the Lord is with us! He, who holds in his hands the fate of the whole world and of each person in particular, is always on the side of the victims of unjust aggression, the suffering and the enslaved. It is He who proclaims His holy Name in the history of every nation, captures and overthrows the mighty of this world with their pride, the conquerors with the illusion of their omnipotence, the proud and insolent with their self-confidence. It is He who grants victory over evil and death. The victory of Ukraine will be the victory of God’s power over the meanness and arrogance of man! So it was, is and will be!

Our holy Church-Martyr has always been and always will be with its people! This Church, which has already survived death and resurrection, as the Body of the Risen Christ, over which death has no power, the Lord gave to his people in the baptismal waters of the Dnipro River.

Since then, the history of our people and its Church, the history of their liberation struggles, the history of the incarnation of God’s Word and the manifestation of His Spirit of truth in our culture have intertwined forever. And in this dramatic moment, our Church, as a mother and teacher will be with its children, will protect them and serve them in the name of God! In God is our hope and our victory will come from Him!

Today we solemnly proclaim: “Our soul and body offer we for our freedom! With one heart we pray: “Lord, Great and Almighty, protect our beloved Ukraine!”

Holy righteous people, martyrs and confessors of the Ukrainian land, pray and intercede for us before God!

God’s blessing be upon you!

+ Sviatoslav

Given in Kyiv

at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,

February 24, 2021 A.D.




APPEAL of His Beatitude Sviatoslav to the Sons and Daughters of the Ukrainian People in Ukraine and Abroad, and to all People of Good Will

Kyiv, February 22, 2022                                                                           

Prot. N. 22/048 ENG

APPEAL

of His Beatitude Sviatoslav

to the Sons and Daughters of the Ukrainian People in Ukraine and Abroad,

and to all People of Good Will

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The recognition by the president of the Russian Federation of the “independence and sovereignty” of the self-proclaimed LNR and DNR creates serious challenges and threats for the entire international community and for international law, on the basis of which today people and their nations exist and cooperate. Irreparable damage has been done to the very logic of international relations, which are called to safeguard peace and the just order of societies, the supremacy of law, the accountability of state powers, the defence of the human being, human life and natural rights. Today all of humanity has been placed in danger—that the powerful have a right to impose themselves on whomever they wish, with no regard for the rule of law.

In its decision the government of the Russian Federation unilaterally withdrew from a lengthy peace process, tasked with ensuring the restoration of dignified conditions for life on the territories controlled by Russia in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, for those impacted by Russian military aggression. The war, initiated against our people in 2014, has inflicted deep wounds on many of our fellow citizens: thousands killed, wounded, left in solitude. Yesterday’s step taken by the president of the Russian Federation destroyed foundational principles for a long-term process of restoring peace in Ukraine, created the path for a new wave of military aggression against our state, opened the doors for a full scale military operation against the Ukrainian people.

We consider the defense of our native land, our historical memory and our hope, our God-given right to exist to be the personal responsibility and sacred duty of the citizens of Ukraine. The defence of our Fatherland is our natural right and civic duty. We are strong when we are together. Now has come the time to unite our efforts in order to defend the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Ukrainian state. The duty and responsibility of all of humanity—to actively work to avert war and protect a just peace.

We are convinced that the world cannot develop and find answers for the challenges of today by resorting to might and violence, by showing disdain for shared human values and the truth of the Gospel. I call upon all people of good will to not ignore the suffering of the Ukrainian people, brought on by Russian military aggression. We are a people who love peace. And precisely for that reason we are ready to defend it and fight for it.

Today we call out in prayer to the Almighty Creator, with a special appeal for wisdom for those entrusted with making important decisions for society, in whose hands lies the fate of humanity. We ask the Heavenly Father for assistance in restoring a just peace on Ukrainian land.

We pray especially for those who defend Ukraine, who in these days are for us an example of loving sacrifice and dedicated service to their people. May the merciful Lord protect them from every danger and crown their efforts with the victory of truth and good.

We call for the gracious blessing of a loving God and Creator upon Ukraine and its people!

The blessing of the Lord be upon you. 

† SVIATOSLAV