The pope “expressed his sorrow for the sense of helplessness experienced in the face of war, ‘a thing of the devil, who wants to destroy,’ with a special thought for the Ukrainian children he has met during audiences. ‘They look at you and have forgotten their smiles,’ he said, and added, ‘This is one of the fruits of war: to take the smile away from children.’”
Shevchuk said in a press release: “This meeting was a time of mutual listening and an opportunity for frank and sincere dialogue.”
“We expressed to the pope everything that our faithful in Ukraine and throughout the world entrusted us to convey to His Holiness,” he said.
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.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic synod is a meeting of only bishops. All but 11 of the synod’s 56 bishops were able to participate.
The Rome gathering is being held at the Ukrainian Pontifical College of St. Josaphat on the theme “Pastoral Support for Victims of War.”
At the synod’s opening Divine Liturgy in the Basilica of St. Sophia in Rome on Sept. 3, Major Archbishop Shevchuk noted that 56 bishops is a record for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
“Interestingly, while going through the materials yesterday, I noticed that almost half of them are younger than me,” he said. “It means that our synod is not getting older but younger every year. Therefore, we call our synod the Synod of Hope for our Church and the Ukrainian people.”
The prefect of the Dicastery for the Eastern Catholic Churches, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, also participated in the liturgy.
The synod will hold a Divine Liturgy open to all Catholics on the morning of Sept. 10 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
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On Sept. 5, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic bishops met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity.
Parolin agreed to a proposal from Shevchuk to hold a meeting of the Permanent Interdicasterial Commission for the Church in Eastern Europe.
“We will meet with representatives of this Church ‘sui iuris’ and of the Latin Church, as well as some experts, to explore issues related to war and its origin, keeping in mind that war is always an evil and, even when it responds to the right of self-defense, it is our duty as Christians and pastors to limit its effects as much as possible, with words and actions,” Parolin said.
The pope’s encounter with Ukrainian bishops Wednesday opened with the praying of an Our Father together for Ukraine and its people and closed with a prayer for the intercession of the Virgin Mary before an icon of the Theotokos, or Mother of God.
“The pope confided that every day he remembers Ukrainians in his prayers before the icon of the Virgin given to him by the Major Archbishop [Shevchuk] before he left Buenos Aires,” the Vatican said.
The Ukrainian bishops also asked for prayers for the release of two Redemptorist priests, Father Ivan Levytskyi and Father Bohdan Haleta, who remain in captivity after they were captured by Russian troops in late November 2022.