Pope Francis ".. encounter with Jesus, the spiritual life, the prayer that vibrates in the beauty of your Liturgy..." to Ukrainian Greek-Catholics - Full Text

Audience with the members of the permanent synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, 05.07.2019

This morning, in the Sala Bologna of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the members of the permanent synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and addressed the following to them:

Speech of the Holy Father

Beatitude, Dear Brother Major Archbishop,
Eminences, Excellencies,
Dear brothers!

It was my desire to invite you here in Rome for a fraternal sharing, also with the Superiors of the competent Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. I thank you for accepting the invitation, it's nice to see you. Ukraine has been living for a long time a difficult and delicate situation, for over five years wounded by a conflict that many call "hybrid", composed as it is by war actions where those responsible are camouflaged; a conflict where the weakest and the smallest pay the highest price, a conflict aggravated by propaganda falsifications and various types of manipulation, including the attempt to involve the religious aspect.

I carry you in my heart and I pray for you, dear Ukrainian Brothers. And I trust you that sometimes I do it with the prayers I remember and that I learned from Bishop Stefano Chmil, then a Salesian priest; he taught me when I was 12, in 1949, and I learned from him to serve the Divine Liturgy three times a week. I thank you for your fidelity to the Lord and to the Successor of Peter, which is often expensive throughout history, and I beg the Lord to accompany the actions of all political leaders to seek not the so-called partisan good, which in the end is always an interest at the expense of someone else, but the common good, peace. And I ask the "God of all consolation" (2 Cor 1: 3) to comfort the souls of those who have lost their loved ones because of the war, of those who bear their wounds in body and spirit, of those who had to leave the home and work and face the risk of looking for a more human future elsewhere, far away. You know that my gaze goes every morning and every evening to the Madonna of whom His Beatitude gave me as a gift, when he left Buenos Aires to assume the office of Major Archbishop that the Church had entrusted to him. In front of that icon I begin and end the days entrusting to the tenderness of the Madonna, who is Mother, all of you, your Church. We can say that I start the days and finish them "in Ukrainian", looking at the Madonna.

The main role of the Church, faced with the complex situations caused by conflicts, is to offer a witness of Christian hope. Not a hope of the world, which is based on things that pass, come and go, and often divide, but the hope that never disappoints, that does not give way to discouragement, that knows how to overcome all tribulation in the sweet force of the Spirit (see Rm 5,2-5). Christian hope, nourished by the light of Christ, makes the resurrection and life shine even in the darkest nights of the world. Therefore, dear Brothers, I believe that in difficult times, even more than in those of peace, the priority for believers is to be united to Jesus, our hope. It is a question of renewing that union founded on baptism and rooted in faith, rooted in the history of our communities, rooted in great witnesses: I think of the host of heroes of everyday life, of those numerous saints next door who, with simplicity, in your people they have responded to evil with good (see Romans 12:21). They are the examples to look at: those who in the mildness of the Beatitudes had the Christian courage, that of not opposing the wicked, of loving their enemies and praying for the persecutors (see Mt 5: 39.44). They, in the violent field of history, have planted the cross of Christ. And they brought fruit. These brothers and sisters of yours who have suffered persecution and martyrdom and who have only rejected the Lord Jesus, have rejected the logic of the world, according to which violence is answered with violence, have written the clearest pages of faith with their lives: they are fruitful seeds of Christian hope. I read the book Perseguitati per il producing. Behind those priests, bishops, nuns, there is the people of God, who carry out all the people with faith and prayer.
A few years ago the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church adopted the pastoral program entitled The Living Parish, a meeting place with the living Christ. In some translations, the expression "living parish" has been rendered with the adjective "vibrant". Indeed, the encounter with Jesus, the spiritual life, the prayer that vibrates in the beauty of your Liturgy transmit that beautiful force of peace, which soothes wounds, instills courage but not aggression. When, as from a well of spring water, we draw on this spiritual vitality and transmit it, the Church becomes fruitful. Become the announcer of the Gospel of hope, teacher of that interior life that no other institution is able to offer.

This is why I wish to encourage you all, as Pastors of God's holy people, to have this primary concern in all your activities: prayer, spiritual life. It is the first job, no one else has to go before it. They all know and see that in your tradition you are a Church that knows how to speak in spiritual and not worldly terms (see 1 Cor 2:13). Because of heaven on earth he needs every person who approaches the Church, not anything else. May the Lord grant us this grace and make all of us dedicated to our sanctification and that of the faithful entrusted to us. On the night of the conflict you are going through, as in Gethsemane, the Lord asks his people to "watch and pray"; not to defend oneself, let alone to attack. But the disciples slept instead of praying and at the arrival of Judas they brought out their swords. They had not prayed and had fallen into temptation, into the temptation of worldliness: the violent weakness of the flesh had prevailed over the meekness of the spirit. Not sleep, not the sword, not flight (see Mt, but prayer and self-giving to the end are the answers the Lord expects from his. Only these answers are Christian, they alone save from the worldly spiral of violence.

The Church is called to carry out her pastoral mission by various means. Closeness comes after prayer. What the Lord had asked his Apostles that evening, to stay close to him and to watch (see Mk 14:34), today he asks his Pastors: to be with the people, keeping watch beside those who go through the night of pain . The proximity of the Pastors to the faithful is a channel that is built day by day and that brings the living water of hope. This is how it is built, meeting after meeting, with the priests who know and take to heart the concerns of the people, and the faithful who, through the care they receive, assimilate the proclamation of the Gospel that the Pastors transmit. They do not understand it if the Pastors are only intent on saying God; they understand it if they do their utmost to give God: by giving themselves, standing nearby, witnesses to the God of hope who became flesh to walk on man's roads. The Church is the place where hope is drawn, where the door is always open, where consolation and encouragement are received. Never closed, with no one, but open heart; never watch the clock, never send home those who need to be heard. We are servants of time. We live in time. Please do not fall into the temptation of living as watch slaves! Time, not the clock.
Pastoral care includes first and foremost the liturgy which, as the Major Archbishop has often emphasized, together with spirituality and catechesis constitutes an element that characterizes the identity of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. It, to the world "still disfigured by selfishness and greed, reveals the way to the balance of the new man" (St. John Paul II, Orientale lumen, 11): the way of charity, of the unconditional love, within which every other activity must be routed, so that the fraternal bond between people, inside and outside the community, is nourished. With this spirit of closeness in 2016 I promoted a humanitarian initiative, to which I invited the Churches in Europe to participate, to offer help to those who had been most directly affected by the conflict. I again warmly thank all those who have contributed to the creation of this collection, both economically and on an organizational and technical level. To that first initiative, now substantially completed, I would like other special projects to follow. Already at this meeting some information can be provided. It is so important to be close to everyone and to be concrete, also to avoid the danger that a serious situation of suffering falls into the general oblivion. One cannot forget the brother who suffers, wherever he comes from. One cannot forget the brother who suffers.

I would like to add a third word to prayer and closeness, which is so familiar to you: synodality. Being Church is being a community that walks together. It is not enough to have a synod, you must be a synod. The Church needs an intense internal sharing: a living dialogue between the Pastors and between the Pastors and the faithful. As an Eastern Catholic Church, you already have a marked synodal expression in your canonical order, which calls for frequent and regular recourse to the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops. But every day we must make a synod, striving to walk together, not only with those who think in the same way - this would be easy - but with all believers in Jesus.

Three aspects revive synodality. First of all, listening: listening to the experiences and suggestions of the bishops and priests. It is important that everyone within the Synod feels heard. Listening is all the more important as you go up in the hierarchy. Listening is sensitivity and openness to the opinions of the brothers, even those younger, even those considered less experienced. A second aspect: co-responsibility. We cannot be indifferent to the errors or the carelessness of others, without intervening in a fraternal but convinced way: our confreres need our thoughts, our encouragement, as well as our corrections, because, precisely, we are called to walk together. You cannot hide what is wrong and move on as if nothing had happened to defend your good name at all costs: charity must always be lived in truth, in transparency, in that parresia that purifies the Church and keeps it going. Synodality - third aspect - also means involvement of the laity: as full members of the Church, they too are called to express themselves, to give suggestions. Participants of ecclesial life, they should not only be welcomed but listened to. And I emphasize this verb: to listen. Whoever listens afterwards can speak well. Those who are used to not listening, do not speak, bark.
Synodality also leads to broadening horizons, to living the richness of one's own tradition within the universality of the Church: to benefit from good relations with other rites; to consider the beauty of sharing significant parts of one's own theological and liturgical treasure with other communities, even non-Catholic ones; to weave fruitful relations with other particular Churches, as well as with the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia. Unity in the Church will be all the more fruitful, the more the understanding and cohesion between the Holy See and the particular Churches will be real. More precisely: how much more understanding and cohesion between all the Bishops with the Bishop of Rome. This certainly must not "lead to a decrease in the awareness of one's own authenticity and originality" (Orientale lumen, 21), but shape it within our Catholic identity, that is, universal. As universal, it is endangered and can be worn down by attachment to particularisms of various kinds: ecclesial particularisms, nationalistic particularisms, political particularisms.

Dear Brothers, these two days of meeting, which I strongly wanted, are strong moments of sharing, of reciprocal listening, of free dialogue, always animated by the search for good, in the spirit of the Gospel. Help us to walk better together. It is, in a sense, a sort of Synod dedicated to the issues that are most dear to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in this period, burdened by the ongoing military conflict and characterized by a series of political and ecclesial processes far more extensive than those concerning our Catholic Church. But I commend to you this spirit, this discernment on which to occur: prayer and spiritual life in the first place; then closeness, especially to those who suffer; therefore synodality, journey together, open path, step by step, with meekness and docility. I thank you, I accompany you on this journey and I ask you, please, to remember me in your prayers.

Thank you!
FULL TEXT + Image  shared from Vatican.va - Unofficial Translation