The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church presided over a Divine Liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica on Sunday where he prayed for peace in the Ukraine war at the tomb of the first pope.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said on Sept. 10 that he wanted to express gratitude to the pope and Catholics around the world for not abandoning Ukraine and “for the fact that we can say to Rome, Ukraine, and the world from the tomb of St. Peter: Ukraine stands! Ukraine is fighting! Ukraine is praying.”
“Amidst the pain and darkness of the great war, the Lord God gives us a sense of deep joy and true light that never fails. Today, here, to us, gathered at the tomb of the Apostle Peter, the Lord God sends his message: ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,’” Shevchuk said in his homily.
The liturgy was part of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s annual Synod of Bishops, taking place in Rome Sept. 3–13.
Last week, Pope Francis met for nearly two hours with the 45 bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church taking part in the synod.
About 2,500 Ukrainians attended the liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The former prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Catholic Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, also participated.
Shevchuk told the Ukrainian Catholics in the basilica: “I look at you and cry because your Ukraine is crying for you! But I know that God loves us, and we will all return home one day. With the power of love for our homeland, for our people, we will win.”
The liturgy commemorated the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Josaphat Kuntsevych, a 17th-century Ruthenian Catholic monk and bishop whose example of faith inspired many Eastern Orthodox Christians to return to full communion with the Catholic Church.
Shevchuk noted that St. Josaphat is the only Ukrainian saint whose relics are held in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Today, Josaphat speaks to us: Children of Ukraine, never listen to the voices of those who tell you to renounce this unity. Our Church has survived in all historical epochs. It has withstood those who wanted to liquidate it because it was in unity with the broad, universal family of the Catholic Church,” the major archbishop said.
“In the same way, Ukraine today will not be able to survive that war without broad international assistance and support at all levels,” he said. “Ecumenical Catholic Christian solidarity is a necessary condition for the sustainability and survival of our Church and people — a prerequisite for Ukraine’s victory in the struggle between good and evil that our people are waging today.”
The synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is taking place in Rome just one month ahead of an assembly of the Synod of Bishops of the Latin Catholic Church, often referred to as the Synod on Synodality.
The Ukrainian gathering in Rome is being held at the Ukrainian Pontifical College of St. Josaphat on the theme “Pastoral Support for Victims of War.”
Shevchuk told the Ukrainian bishops praying together in St. Peter’s Basilica: “You and I are in communion with the successor of the Apostle Peter of our days not for political or diplomatic grounds … We are sons and daughters of the universal Church, for we believe that it was on the rock of the Apostle Peter that Christ founded his Church.”
“And this Peter continues to live, act, and serve through his successors, manifesting the divine and timeless origin of the Church as the Body of Christ.”