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Pope Francis: ‘Light candles of hope in the midst of darkness’

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the World Day of the Poor Nov. 13, 2022. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2022 / 04:30 am (CNA).

On the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis encouraged Christians to not be brought down by the “doom and gloom” of the world, but to witness to the joy of the Gospel through service to those in need.

“Let us take to heart the clear and unmistakable summons in the Gospel not to be led astray. Let us not listen to prophets of doom,” the pope said at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Nov. 13.

“Instead, let us bear witness,” he said. “Let us light candles of hope in the midst of darkness. Amid dramatic situations, let us seize opportunities to bear witness to the Gospel of joy and to build a more fraternal world, at least a little more fraternal. Let us commit ourselves courageously to justice, the rule of law and peace, and stand at the side of the weakest.”

Pope Francis, assisted by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, celebrated Mass for the sixth annual World Day of the Poor, which was established at the conclusion of the Year of Mercy.

The poor were special guests at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. The day was also marked by a number of initiatives to aid those in need, including a free meal and medical care.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the World Day of the Poor Nov. 13, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the World Day of the Poor Nov. 13, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

In his homily, Pope Francis urged Christians to not let themselves become victims of the many crises happening in the world — such as war, famine, poverty, and natural disasters — but take action where they can.

He pointed to the day’s Gospel, Luke 21:5–19, in which Jesus says to not be deceived by false prophets.

“It is not by chance that Jesus’ second exhortation, after ‘do not be led astray,’ is positive,” the pope said. “He says: ‘This will give you an opportunity to testify.’”

“I want to emphasize this fine word: opportunity,” Francis said. “It means having the chance to do something good, starting from our situation in life, even when it is not ideal.”

“A disciple of the Lord,” he added, “should not yield to resignation or give in to discouragement, even in the most difficult situations, for our God is the God of resurrection and hope, who always raises up: with him we can lift up our gaze and begin anew.”

Pope Francis said Christians, when encountering trials, should ask themselves: “What is the Lord saying to us through this moment of crisis?”

The poor pay the heaviest price, he said, issuing a warning about hardened hearts.

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the World Day of the Poor Nov. 13, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.
Pope Francis celebrates Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the World Day of the Poor Nov. 13, 2022. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

“If our heart is deadened and indifferent, we cannot hear their faint cry of pain, we cannot cry with them and for them, we cannot see how much loneliness and anguish also lie hidden in the forgotten corners of our cities.”

Put your trust in God the Father, he said: “We should always repeat this to ourselves, especially at times of greatest trouble: God is a Father, and he is at my side. He knows and loves me; he does not sleep, but watches over me and cares for me. If I stay close to him, not a hair of my head will perish.”

“Since he loves us, let us resolve to love him in the most abandoned of his children,” the pope said, and “let us care for the poor, in whom we find Jesus, who became poor for our sake.”

Pope Francis meets with Father James Martin at Vatican

Fr. James Martin, SJ. Credit: Kerry Weber via Wikipedia cc 4.0 | Pope Francis. Credit: Daniel Ibáñez/CNA. / null

CNA Newsroom, Nov 11, 2022 / 05:24 am (CNA).

Pope Francis received Father James Martin, SJ, in a private audience in the apostolic palace inside the Vatican on Friday.

In a tweet published after the encounter, Father Martin wrote he was “was deeply grateful to meet with Pope Francis in the Apostolic Palace this morning for 45 minutes.”

The conversation covered “the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties, of LGBTQ Catholics,” Martin added, writing: “It was a warm, inspiring and encouraging meeting that I’ll never forget.“

The Vatican does not customarily comment on papal meetings with individual priests or bishops.

Martin is the author of “Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity” and frequently speaks on issues pertaining to homosexuality and Catholicism.

Pope Francis met with Father Martin in 2019 and expressed support for the American Jesuit’s ministry in a letter a year later, encouraging him to “continue this way.“

Pope Francis, King of Jordan discuss ‘need to encourage Christian presence’ in Middle East

King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan with Pope Francis, Nov. 10, 2022 / Vatican Media

CNA Newsroom, Nov 10, 2022 / 09:20 am (CNA).

Pope Francis received King Abdullah II of Jordan on Thursday in the Vatican for ”cordial discussions” and spoke about the presence of Christians in the region, the Holy See Press office said Nov. 10.

The pope and the king spoke about the need to continue to develop interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, “always ensuring that the Catholic Church in Jordan may freely exercise her mission,” according to a Vatican statement.

Both sides expressed appreciation for the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and the Hashemite Kingdom, highlighting the importance of promoting stability and peace in the Middle East — with particular reference to the Palestinian question and the issue of refugees — and the “need to preserve and encourage the Christian presence in the region was reiterated,” the statement said.

Pope Francis received King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan at the Vatican on Nov. 10, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis received King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan at the Vatican on Nov. 10, 2022. Vatican Media

Pope Francis has repeatedly raised the “survival of Christians in the Middle East” in discussion with Catholic bishops and Muslim leaders. 

The pontiff and the King of Jordan on Thursday also agreed on a need to continue to preserve the status quo in the Holy Places in Jerusalem.

Pope Francis, who visited Jordan in 2014, met with Muslim leaders in the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain last week with a message that Catholics and Muslims alike are called to work to promote peace in the world.

‘Priestly formation at the heart of evangelization,’ Pope Francis tells seminary rectors

Pope Francis meets with rectors and formators from Latin America at the Vatican Nov. 10, 2022. / Credit: Vatican Media

CNA Newsroom, Nov 10, 2022 / 09:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Thursday said that “all priestly formation, particularly that of future pastors, is at the heart of evangelization.”

In cases where a seminary lacks a sufficient number of seminarians, the pope said, “the creation or consolidation of interdiocesan, provincial, or regional seminaries” was necessary.

Speaking to rectors and formators from Latin America currently in Rome, the pontiff said: “How necessary is a quality formation for those who will be the sacramental presence of the Lord in the midst of his flock, nourishing and healing it with the Word and the sacraments!”

Pope Francis meets with rectors and formators from Latin America at the Vatican Nov. 10, 2022. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with rectors and formators from Latin America at the Vatican Nov. 10, 2022. Credit: Vatican Media

“The vocation to the priesthood, in fact, is a gift of God to the Church and to the world; it is a way to sanctify oneself and to sanctify others, a path that is not followed in an individual way, but always having as a reference a concrete portion of the People of God,” he said in prepared remarks Nov. 10.

Pope Francis praised the contributions of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to the formation of priests and pointed to the Church’s emphasis on “unique, integral, communitarian, and missionary characteristics.” 

For seminaries to be “true Christian communities,” he added, required “an adequate number of seminarians and formators.”

Alluding to the reality of dwindling vocations in some regions, the pope said it was “necessary to leave inertia and protagonism behind and begin to dream together, not longing for the past, not alone, but united and open to what the Lord desires today as formation for the next generations of priests inspired by the current orientations of the Church.”

Pope Francis meets with rectors and formators from Latin America at the Vatican Nov. 10, 2022. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with rectors and formators from Latin America at the Vatican Nov. 10, 2022. Credit: Vatican Media

The pontiff assured formators he was “aware that the service you render to the Church is not simple and not infrequently challenges your own humanity, because the formator has a heart that is 100% human and that not infrequently he can feel frustration, weariness, anger, and impotence.”

For this reason, it was all the more important to turn “every day to Jesus, getting down on our knees and in his presence learning from him who is meek and humble of heart, so that little by little our heart learns to beat to the rhythm of the Master’s heart.”

The pope concluded his remarks with a prayer: “May Mary Most Holy, Mother of priests, encourage them and watch over them in their mission.”

Vatican’s first auditor general and his deputy sue Secretariat of State

Libero Milone / Credit: Edward Pentin/YouTube channel screen shot

CNA Newsroom, Nov 10, 2022 / 07:40 am (CNA).

The first auditor general of the Vatican and his deputy are suing the Secretariat of State for $9.25 million in damages.

Libero Milone and Ferruccio Panicco are seeking compensation for loss of earnings, damage to their reputations, and emotional suffering.

Milone and Panicco told reporters this week they also would submit records documenting financial crimes by senior Vatican officials, including embezzlement of funds.

Before coming to the Vatican, Milone had been chairman and CEO of Italy’s Deloitte global accounting firm. He had also worked for the United Nations. He was appointed auditor general at the Vatican in 2015 and told to resign two years later. 

Three months after suddenly stepping down in the middle of his five-year mandate, Milone said he was “threatened” into resignation by an “old guard” opposed to his work.

The Vatican responded with “surprise and regret” at this allegation, and Pope Francis used his 2017 Christmas address to criticize people who “betray the trust put in them” and “wrongly declare themselves martyrs of the system, of a ‘Pope kept in the dark,’ of the ‘old guard.’” 

The man said to be responsible for the firing of Milone, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, told Reuters in 2017 that Milone “went against all the rules and was spying on the private lives of his superiors and staff, including me.”

Becciu is currently on trial for alleged financial crimes and was forced to step down in 2020 by Pope Francis. He maintains his innocence.

In May of this year, he pointed to Pope Francis regarding the question of removing Milone. In a court interrogation that lasted almost eight hours, Becciu told a prosecutor the pope had called him to a meeting in June 2017, where the pope claimed that he no longer had trust in Milone and therefore wanted Becciu to contact the auditor and tell him he must resign.

According to Becciu, the pope also expressed regret for entrusting him with “these thankless tasks.” 

Milone in turn is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Vatican. Spokesman Matteo Bruni confirmed to the New York Times that the Vatican’s prosecutor had an open file on Milone for embezzlement, “after a confidentiality seal was removed from the case.”

Milone’s former deputy, Ferruccio Panicco, accuses the Vatican of withholding medical records, allegedly thereby reducing his ability to seek treatment for prostate cancer.

Benedict XVI tells Ukrainian archbishop: ‘I continue to pray for peace’

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Nov. 9, 2022 / Rome's Secretariat of the Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church

Rome Newsroom, Nov 10, 2022 / 02:53 am (CNA).

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church met with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery Nov. 9 and asked him to keep praying for Ukraine. 

The pope emeritus told Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk that he “keeps praying for Ukraine.” 

The last meeting between the two dates back to February 2019. During that meeting, Benedict proved to be incredibly informed of the events in Ukraine and stressed that he always prayed for peace in Ukraine.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Arcbbishop Georg Gänswein, Nov. 9, 2022. Rome's Secretariat of the Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Arcbbishop Georg Gänswein, Nov. 9, 2022. Rome's Secretariat of the Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Church

In their meeting on Nov. 9, Shevchuk spoke about the war in Ukraine, presented the humanitarian situation to the pope emeritus, reiterated that the war in Ukraine is ideological and colonial, and compared it to the Nazi regime.

He also thanked Benedict XVI for his letter at the beginning of the war.

Benedict stressed that he was following the situation in Ukraine closely, expressed his great sorrow for the suffering of the Ukrainian people, and said that he always prayed for peace to come.

Shevchuk replied that “only the power of prayer keeps the Ukrainian people alive,” so he asked to continue praying for Ukraine.

Benedict XVI appointed Sviatoslav Shevchuk bishop on Jan. 14, 2009, assigning him as an auxiliary to the eparchy of Santa Maria del Patrocinio in Buenos Aires, where he met Pope Francis. Benedict XVI also confirmed the election of Sviatoslav Shevchuk as head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on March 25, 2011. There is, therefore, a strong link between the two.

The major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is in Rome for a week of meetings at the Vatican. It is the first time he has left Ukraine since the Russian aggression on Feb. 24. 

On Monday, he met Pope Francis, to whom he brought a fragment of a mine that destroyed a Greek-Catholic church in the city of Irpin. On Nov. 12, he will meet with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state. On Nov. 14, he will meet ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.

Cardinal Filoni on the mission of the Church in current times

Cardinal Fernando Filoni / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 9, 2022 / 07:00 am (CNA).

The mission of the Church today is not just shaped by current political realities and recent developments in the Church but by finding a focus in Christ, an Italian cardinal has said. 

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, emphasized that the Church must rediscover her strength precisely in her gaze toward Christ, going beyond a sociological vision of intervention in society.

Writing for ACI Stampa, CNA’s Italian news partner, Filoni said: “In a rapidly changing world it is natural to ask ourselves if the Church, in this chameleonic and convulsive reality of geopolitics, including financial ones, has a task.”

The Church’s mission, he said, is not competitive and should never be read “as if it were an electoral competition with percentages that the media often contend for journalistic, if not ideological needs.”

Instead, he said, the mission of the Church is “moral, spiritual, but not detached from this world, that is, deeply human and living in and with the crises of humanity,” and the pope “is not at the head of a power, although he is a recognized international figure as well; not even the life of the Church can be translated in a nutshell.”

Cardinal Filoni noted that for “over a century, the Church’s interaction with the world has been extensive “because, from the institutional point of view, it no longer deals with emerging empires or new nations, and there is no episcopate that deals with simply of the religious and humanitarian life of their populations.”

According to the cardinal, a watershed moment was the speech of St. Paul VI at the Campidoglio — the city hall of Rome — on April 16, 1966. In that speech, the pope put aside the idea of ​​“supremacy in the derivation of the temporalism of the Church,” and instead, “he advocated the vocation and mission in universal projection.”

“Not only the papacy, but the whole Church, bishops, religious, baptized faithful, together regained awareness of themselves and their Christological vocation,” said the grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.

The Second Vatican Council had, in fact, “completed a more comprehensive development of all realities starting from dignity, linked to the person and his freedoms,” he said. Therefore, “institutions were no longer in the first place.” In this way, “relations with the world, with non-Christian religions, with the Jewish world, ecumenism itself lost the rust deposited by negativities and, at the same time, the missionary spirit opened its perspective and was reformulated with a proposal respectful of the contemporary world, a place of restlessness in search of answers.”

With these results, “the moral and spiritual role of the pope had emerged enormously, relying even more on the widespread existence of a Church now present on all continents, with the features of their peoples and with native hierarchies and languages.”

Furthermore, the Church “emerged from the traditional pope-bishops, universal Church-diocesan Church, developing intermediate forms of ecclesial interaction, very necessary for approaching and knowing the world and participating in its expectations.” 

And so, Filoni continued, bishops’ conferences and the Synod of Bishops were brought about. These were not “structures of intermediate power between the pope and the bishops,” but “because of their agility they assumed an important role from a pastoral point of view, of social moderation and reference in today’s societies, as democratic as they are diverse.”

Cardinal Filoni wrote that in some cases, there had been the temptation to prevent or control the voice of the bishops’ conferences, which “demonstrates their authority.”

According to the cardinal, “the bishops’ conferences, however, as instruments of communion and mutual support between the bishops and with the pope, represent one of the most historically significant developments in the presence of the Church in the world, having placed themselves among the forms of personal jurisdiction (pope-bishop) and collegial ones (councils-synods).”

And again, he added, “a bishops’ conference, in truth, compared to the single bishop, is always better able to defend ecclesial and human values ​​at a regional or national level than the action of a single bishop; but also sometimes concerning the Apostolic See, often dealing with issues internal to individual countries and in adherence to the principle of subsidiarity, according to which the superior body must not intervene, but can support the action.”

For Cardinal Filoni, there is still much to discover in this Christological and missionary vocation, which becomes concrete in the role of bishops.

He concluded: “There are those who are already thinking of a Vatican Council III, and the opinions are respectable. But has the Second Vatican Council already exhausted its function about the role of the Church in the world?”

Here’s what the Vatican is doing for the World Day of the Poor

A banner featuring Pope Francis for the World Day of the Poor, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 9, 2022 / 05:14 am (CNA).

On Sunday, Nov. 13, the Catholic Church will celebrate the 6th World Day of the Poor.

The day was established by Pope Francis at the end of the Year of Mercy, “so that throughout the world Christian communities can become an ever greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need,” he wrote in a 2017 message.

In his message for this year’s World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis said that no Christian is exempt from helping those with fewer resources than ourselves.

The worst thing that can happen to a Christian community is to be “dazzled by the idol of wealth, which ends up chaining us to an ephemeral and bankrupt vision of life,” he said. “Where the poor are concerned, it is not talk that matters; what matters is rolling up our sleeves and putting our faith into practice through a direct involvement, one that cannot be delegated.”

With the help of businesses and charities, here is what Pope Francis and the Vatican are doing to mark the day.

Mass and lunch with the poor

On Sunday, Nov. 13, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with the poor and anyone else who would like to participate.

Afterward, a hot lunch will be served in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall to 1,300 people living in poverty.

Free medical care

This week leading up to the World Day of the Poor, a mobile health clinic has been set up in St. Peter’s Square to give free health screenings and medical care to those who might otherwise not have access.

Services offered include general check-ups, electrocardiograms, blood tests, flu shots, COVID-19 tests, and screening for HIV, Hepatitis C, and Tuberculosis.

Food for families and paid utility bills

The Vatican is giving 5,000 boxes of food to parishes around Rome to distribute to families in need of extra help.

The initiative includes 10 tons of pasta, five tons each of rice, flour, sugar, salt, and coffee, and over 1,300 gallons of oil and milk to provide households with their basic food needs.

As an energy crisis continues to raise costs in Europe, some charitable organizations in Rome have also been given funds to cover the gas and electric bills of people struggling to make ends meet.

Pope Francis blessed the sculpture by Timothy Schmalz on Nov. 9, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis blessed the sculpture by Timothy Schmalz on Nov. 9, 2022. Vatican Media

Raising awareness through art

Before his general audience on Nov. 9, Pope Francis blessed a new sculpture by the Catholic artist Timothy Schmalz.

The life-size bronze work, called “Sheltering,” depicts a flying dove pulling a blanket over the naked body of a sleeping homeless person.

Schmalz, who is from Canada, is known for his religious- and social-themed sculptures, including “Homeless Jesus,” a copy of which can be found inside the Vatican.

He is also the creator of the “Angels Unawares” sculpture depicting immigrants and refugees and located in St. Peter’s Square.

The global Vincentian Family commissioned Schmalz’s latest work — a movement of religious congregations, lay associations, and charities inspired by St. Vincent de Paul — to highlight homelessness worldwide. 

The story was updated at 7:30am MST on Nov. 12, 2022 to correct the source of Pope Francis' quote about establishing the World Day of the Poor.

Pope Francis: Bahrain trip ‘a new step’ in Christian-Muslim dialogue

Pope Francis speaking at the general audience on St. Peter's Square, Nov. 9, 2022 / Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

Rome Newsroom, Nov 9, 2022 / 03:34 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Wednesday his trip to the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain was a new step on the journey to create “fraternal alliances” between Christians and Muslims.

The pope spoke about his Nov. 3–6 visit to Bahrain, a small, overwhelmingly Muslim country in the Persian Gulf, during his weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 9.

“The journey to Bahrain should not be seen as an isolated episode,” he said. “It was part of a process initiated by St. John Paul II when he went to Morocco.”

This is why, he continued, “the first visit of a pope in Bahrain represents a new step on the journey between Christian and Muslim believers — not to confuse things or water down the faith, but to create fraternal alliances in the name of our Father Abraham, who was a pilgrim on earth under the merciful gaze of the one God of Heaven, the God of peace.”

“And why do I say that dialogue does not water down [the faith]?” Francis said. “Because to dialogue you have to have your own identity, you have to start from your identity. If you do not have identity, you cannot dialogue, because you do not understand what you are either.”

The Papal Swiss Guard at St. Peter's Square, Nov. 9, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
The Papal Swiss Guard at St. Peter's Square, Nov. 9, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

The motto of Pope Francis’ visit to Bahrain was “Peace on earth to people of goodwill.” The trip included encounters with government officials, Muslim leaders, and the small Catholic community, including a Mass with around 30,000 people in Bahrain’s national soccer stadium.

The small Christian minority in Bahrain is mostly made up of immigrants, especially from India and the Philippines.

More than 70% of the total population — 1.5 million — is Muslim, while there are only about 161,000 Catholics living in the country, according to 2020 Vatican statistics.

Pope Francis said Wednesday it was “marvelous” to see the many Christian immigrants in Bahrain.

“The brothers and sisters in the faith, whom I met in Bahrain, truly live ‘on a journey,’” he said. “For the most part, they are immigrant laborers who, far from home, discover their roots in the People of God and their family within the larger family of the Church. And they move ahead joyfully, in the certainty that the hope of God does not disappoint.”

The pope pointed out that the Kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands, which “helps us understand that it is not necessary to live by isolating ourselves, but by coming closer” — something which aids peace.

He said “dialogue is the ‘oxygen of peace,’” not only in a nation but also in a family: Dialogue can help bring peace to a husband and wife who are fighting, for example.

Throughout his visit to Bahrain, Francis said, he heard several times the desire to increase encounters and strengthen the relationship between Christians and Muslims in the country.

He recalled a custom in that part of the world to place one’s hand on the heart when greeting another person. “I did this too,” he said, “to make room inside me for the person I was meeting.”

“For without this welcome, dialogue remains empty, illusory, it remains on the level of an idea rather than reality,” he said.

Francis encouraged Catholics to have “open hearts,” not closed, hard hearts, and said he would like to transmit the “genuine, simple, and beautiful joy” of the Christian priests, religious, and lay people he met in Bahrain.

“Meeting each other and praying together, we felt we were of one heart and one soul,” he said.

Pope Francis greeting two children who approached him at the general audience, Nov. 9, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA
Pope Francis greeting two children who approached him at the general audience, Nov. 9, 2022. Daniel Ibáñez / CNA

At the beginning of the general audience, Pope Francis drew attention to two “courageous” children who had approached the platform where he was sitting.

These children “didn't ask permission, they didn’t say, ‘Ah, I'm afraid’ — they came directly,” he said. “They gave us an example of how we are to be with God, with the Lord: go for it.”

“He is always waiting for us,” he continued. “It did me good to see the trust of these two children: it was an example for all of us. This is how we must always approach the Lord: with freedom.”

 

Ukrainian Catholic leader gives Pope Francis Russian mine fragment

Pope Francis and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. / Mazur/cbcew.org.uk/ Олег Чупа via Wikimedia (GFDL).

Rome Newsroom, Nov 7, 2022 / 08:39 am (CNA).

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church gave Pope Francis a piece from an exploded Russian mine during a visit to the Vatican on Monday.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk is in Rome this week to speak with Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia about the war in Ukraine. It is his first time leaving Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24.

During their private meeting Nov. 7, the 52-year-old Schevchuk gave Pope Francis a fragment of a mine that destroyed the front of a Ukrainian Greek Catholic church in the town of Irpin, outside Kyiv, in March.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk gave Pope Francis a fragment from a Russian mine that destroyed the front of a church in Irpin, Ukraine, in March 2022. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk gave Pope Francis a fragment from a Russian mine that destroyed the front of a church in Irpin, Ukraine, in March 2022. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

Irpin was the site of one of the first major battles after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Ukrainian forces were able to recapture the town on March 28, two weeks after Russian troops had gained control of half the town.

According to a press release from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the shrapnel was “a very symbolic gift, not only because Irpin is one of the first ‘martyr towns’ affected by Russian aggression against Ukraine but also because such pieces of land mine are extracted from the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers, civilians, and children, a visible sign of the destruction and death that war brings every day.”

Recent power outages are affecting approximately 4.5 million Ukrainians after Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky, CNN reported.

The U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Nov. 7 that conservative estimates count 16,462 civilian casualties in Ukraine since Feb. 24, with more than 6,400 civilians killed, including 1,731 women and 403 adolescents and children.

The Ukrainian government estimates civilian deaths to be as high as 29,000. In June, the Ukrainian government said 10,000 members of the Ukrainian forces had been killed, 30,000 wounded, and 7,200 were missing in the first three months after the invasion. 

During his meeting with Archbishop Shevchuk on Monday, Pope Francis reiterated his closeness to the Ukrainian people in prayer and action. He encouraged the Ukrainian Catholic leader and his fellow bishops to carry out “an evangelical service of closeness to the suffering people,” the archbishop’s press release said.

The pope also said the Holy See is committed to promoting an end to aggression, the arrival of a just peace, and solidarity and support for the Ukrainian people.

The release said Shevchuk told Francis the war in Ukraine “is a colonial war, and the peace proposals coming from Russia are colonial peace proposals.”

“These proposals imply the denial of the existence of the Ukrainian people, their history, culture and even the Church,” the archbishop said. “It is the denial of the very right to the existence of the Ukrainian state, which is recognized by the international community with its sovereignty and territorial integrity. On this basis, the proposals of Russia lack a subject of dialogue.”

Shevchuk also presented to Pope Francis the 2023 pastoral plan of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which emphasizes service to the weakest, accompaniment for those displaced from home, and the healing of wounds caused by the war.

“I told the pope about the service of our bishops, priests, monks, and nuns in the currently occupied territories. I emphasized that all our pastors stood by the suffering people. I explained that each of our cathedrals, churches, and monasteries have become centers of refuge, welcome, and humanitarian service,” the archbishop said.

Shevchuk has published video messages to encourage the people of Ukraine and provide information about the situation every day since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country in February.