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COMMUNION AND UNITY IN THE LIFE AND MINISTRY
OF THE UKRAINIAN GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCH
PASTORAL LETTER OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS
OF THE UKRAINIAN GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCH 2019


English version of both letters below.

          INTRODUCTION

As one of the fruits of a thousand-year history of pursuits, joys, and sufferings of our Ukrainian people, its sons and daughters have dispersed throughout the world. The reasons for such resettlement are many. Some sought a better fate in foreign lands, others were forced to abandon their native land because of unbearable circumstances brought on by bloody wars and devastation. Many were forcibly expelled, deported, exiled, or imprisoned in faraway lands. The life of our state today is marked by a new powerful wave of emigration due to which millions of sons and daughters of our nation are establishing new communities in countries we may have not even heard of.

In all these complex, and often even tragic circumstances, our Church always travelled together with her children. And her own sons and daughters have extended her presence to all the continents of the globe. In response to appeals from their bishops and with their mission mandate, priests, monks, and female religious followed our faithful around the entire world in order to bring them the Word of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Mysteries, bearing witness to the ministry of charity in action. Our faithful established their existence in new lands, preserving their spiritual patrimony and fostering their Christian culture. It was no accident that the first thing our settlers would do when they found themselves in a new place would be to build their own churches. In this, they bear witness to us today that a church, as the place where one encounters God, was and remains for our people the space where beats the heart of the Ukrainian community. The church is the centre around which the global Ukrainian community is gathered. Indeed, for many centuries the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church was the space of unity for our people, a unity that bonded together Ukrainians in Canada and the USA with their brothers in Latin America and Australia, in Western Europe, Kazakhstan and distant Siberia. It granted them, in the words of Patriarch Josyf, the possibility to “be themselves” far away on foreign soil, creating, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, a mystical and life-giving bond of unity with their roots in their native land and with Christian life flowing from the waters of the Dnipro. For the very reason that we kept our roots and did not become lost among other nations, we piqued their interest, enriching the culture and spirituality of the lands of our new settlement and inviting representatives of other nations to share in them. Thousands of sons and daughters of our Church who have no Ukrainian roots have come to love our Christian heritage and have rooted themselves to the tradition of Kyivan Christianity and the Baptism of Volodymyr. Thus the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church has gone beyond the boundaries of Ukraine, speaking in many languages to many nations, at the same time becoming a mother and teacher for people of different nationalities and cultures.

 

Today we offer our gratitude to God for “his inexpressible gift” (see 2 Cor 9:15) and we are aware that our Church is no longer a local reality, limited to a particular territory or pastoral context. Today she is at the same time global and particular, Ukrainian and multi-national. But this is what we have become, not because of geographic location, nor community organizations or human institutions, nor the diversity of our experience or the structure of our community. We have become who we are because of the internal unity of our Church. This is a unity that unites into one body “those who have been dispersed,” bonding  people of different origins, language, and culture. This is a unity that is only possible in the Church which is the Mystery of unity of the human race fulfilled by the power and action of the Holy Spirit. An awareness of the importance of fostering this unity, a search for the best ways to affirm and strengthen it, was, in fact, the central theme of our Synod of Bishops, held in the Eternal City of Rome, September 1-10, 2019.


COMMUNION AND UNITY IN THE LIFE AND MINISTRY

OF THE UKRAINIAN GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCH

PASTORAL LETTER OF THE SYNOD OF BISHOPS

OF THE UKRAINIAN GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCH 2019


THE CHURCH – A COMMUNITY OF PERSONS GATHERED FROM ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD BY OUR LORD HIMSELF
 
The word for “Church” in Greek, ekklesia, carries the meaning of “calling,” that is, “the community of those who are called.” In the context of the books of the New Testament, first of all, we are talking about a community of the faithful, a community of those whom our Lord Himself is gathering from all the ends of the world (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 751-752).Thus, by its very nature, the ecclesial community is a unity and a communion of those who “belong to God.”

In the community of the Church, the internal bond among her members is, by the power and action of the Holy Spirit, an icon of the unity of the Divine Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. The first community of Christ’s disciples in Jerusalem is thus described in the Acts of the Apostles: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).

Saint Gregory the Theologian says that the names of the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity are simply the names of relationships that exist between Them (see Oration 29 or Third Theological Oration, 16). Indeed, relationship is what unveils and reveals a person. Similarly, in the context of ecclesial communion, each Christian receives a name when through the Sacrament-Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation we enter into the community of the Church and become partakers of the Eucharistict table.

A person can only learn to love God and neighbor and create a unity with those whom they love, if they are led by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Only through such a bond of love (vinculum caritatis), as St. Augustine describes (Tractatus in Ioannem, VI, n.13), can one comprehend his or her own identity, his or her belonging to or involvement in one or another church community, become capable of feeling the hurts and needs of their neighbor, be able to experience God’s presence together with others and share a religious experience in common with others.

We often say that being a member of an Eastern Catholic Church is a particular way of being a Christian. The particular way of the Kyivan Church and her Christian spirit has specific expressions and levels, for example, her local autonomy, synodality, global character in unity-communion with the Successor to Peter the Apostle. The Holy Father and Pope of Rome is the prime servant and living heart of the unity and communion of the Universal Church. Because of this universal unity, because of the care of the Universal Pontiff for our Church, she is able to successfully develop her global character.

The culmination and most profound expression of the unity of the Church of Christ and of her nature is the Most Holy Eucharist. The Eucharistic bread is the visible sign and symbol of ecclesial unity. Already the holy apostle Paul wrote: “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Cor 10:17). We find similar words inthe famous Eucharistic prayer from one of the earliest examples of ancient Christian writing, known as the Didache: “As this broken bread was once scattered on the mountains, and after it had been brought together became one, so may thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth unto thy kingdom; for thine is the glory, and the power, through Jesus Christ, forever” (9,4).

Last Update:  Oct 20, 2019