Pope to Visit Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Rome on January 28

Friday, January 12, 2018

On January 28, 2018, His Holiness Pope Francis will visit St. Sophia Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral in Rome and meet with Ukrainian migrants in Italy. The Pope’s visit will occur at the invitation of His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

At 16:00 the Pope will arrive at St. Sophia Cathedral, where His Beatitude Sviatoslav will meet him. Inside the cathedral, pilgrims will greet the Holy Father with a Ukrainian carol, after which the head of the UGCC will say a word of greeting. The Holy Father will also address the Ukrainian community and then proceed to the crypt of the cathedral. Here the bishop of Rome will pray before the grave of Bishop Stepan Chmil, his teacher at a primary school in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At the end of his visit, the Pope will proceed to pilgrims gathered on the territory of St. Sophia Cathedral.

“The visit of His Holiness to St. Sophia Cathedral has important historical significance: for a number of decades this church was the main cathedral of our Church and became a symbol of its rebirth. The Pope’s meeting with Ukrainian migrants is a sign of his pastoral concern and an expression of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, who for a number of years now have suffered from the war in Donbas [far eastern Ukraine],” said His Beatitude Sviatoslav.

Note: St. Sophia Cathedral in Rome was built at the request of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj in 1969. And in 1985 Pope John Paul II gave it the title of a cardinal church. In the crypt of the cathedral, in addition to others buried there, is the grave of Bishop Stepan Chmil, one of the closest co-workers of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj and a person close to Pope Francis. In 1948, Fr. Stepan Chmil traveled to Argentina as the first Ukrainian Salesian of the Eastern rite. Among the students at the school in which he then worked was a small boy, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis). The Holy Father has more than once mentioned the particular role of Fr. Stepan Chmil in his formation and described how this Ukrainian priest taught him to pray “another Liturgy” and told him much about Ukraine and the persecution of the UGCC in the Soviet Union. Since those times the Pope recalls the Christian greeting in the Ukrainian language and greets Ukrainian pilgrims in their native language.

For Ukrainian migrants, St. Sophia is an important spiritual and cultural center. Ukrainians are the fifth largest ethnic group in Italy. In various parts of Italy, 145 centers of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic chaplaincy operate, and 62 priests perform pastoral ministry.

Secretariat of the Head of the UGCC in Rome


(Translated by UCEF, USA)

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