Monday, April 04, 2011

Divine Liturgy Celebrated in Rome by the New Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

On March 23, the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church elected as their new leader the youngest member of their hierarchy, 41 year-old Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, of the Eparchy of Santa Maria del Patrocinio in Argentina. He succeeds as Major Archbishop of Kiev-Halych Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, who retired on February 10 due to failing eyesight. After the confirmation of the election by Pope Benedict XVI on March 25, Archbishop Shevchuk was enthroned in the still-to-be completed Cathedral of the Resurrection in Kiev on March 27th. Almost immediately thereafter, he and several members of the Permanent Synod of the UGCC hierarchy came to Rome, and were received in audience by the Holy Father on April 1. Among the challenges which the new Archbishop faces will be the fostering of good relations with the various Orthodox Churches of the Ukraine, a task which has already gotten off to a good start; official representatives of the various groups of the Ukrainian Orthodox were present for his enthronement, and, as His Beatitude referred to the Holy Father, “When I came up to each of them during the singing to say the liturgical phrase ‘Christ is among us,’ each of them answered: ‘He is and shall be.’ It was a very promising indication of their openness and shows that we really have many more objectives and much more work to do in th(e) field (of ecumenical relations).” (Courtesy of RISU, the Religious Information Service of Ukraine.) A good friend of the NLM, the Rev. Dr. Athanasius McVay, a priest of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton, recently wrote an article on the election of the new Archbishop and what it means for the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, which is well worth reading.

Yesterday, His Beatitude celebrated the Divine Liturgy of the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent, also called the Sunday of St. John Climacus, at the Church of St. Sophia in Rome, together with a large number of bishops and priests of his Church, as well as Leonardo Card. Sandri, the Prefect of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches. (Card. Sandri was born in Buenos Aires, where Archbishop Shevchuk was serving as bishop until his election.) The church is attached to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic University of St. Clement, but was far too small to accommodate the large number of faithful who were present for this signal event in the history of their church; a sanctuary was therefore set up on the steps of the building, and the faithful stood close by in the large open space in front of it. The choir was formed of priests and seminarians from the Pontifical Russian College and Pontifical Ukrainian College, and provided music that was as solemn and beautiful as such a moving occasion deserved; one of the priests present told me that he was in tears for at least half of the Liturgy, an emotion shared by many present, including myself. More photographs are available from the indefatigable John Sonnen over at Orbis Catholicus.

The temporary sanctuary set up on the steps of the church.

Confessions were heard by four priests through the length of the service, well over two hours, in the customary manner of the Byzantines, with the faithful kneeling next to the seated priests.

The Archbishop was greeted by members of the faithful in traditional Ukrainian dress.

Senior members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic hierarchy in the entrance procession, followed by Leonardo Cardinal Sandri.

His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kiev-Halych.

The clergy enter the sanctuary.

The singing of the Gospel.

The Homily, to which the congregation listened with a silence unusual for such a large crowd.

During the singing of the Creed, the veil is waved up and down over the Archbishop's head, symbolic of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost.

Cardinal Sandri and Archbishop Shevchuk exchange the Kiss of Peace.

At the Sursum corda, as at several other important moments of the Liturgy, a Byzantine bishop hold the two candlesticks which are part of his insignia.

The Our Father

Cardinal Sandri reads Pope Benedict's letter confirming the election of Archbishop Shevchuk.

The Archbishop with clergy and laity of his flock.

The faithful make their thanksgiving inside the church after the liturgy is over.

A view of the congregation.

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