By Vatican News staff reporter
“We want more and more to be a Church that comes out to serve – this is our program, our dream, our guide. First of all, we must serve those who are closest to us and lack attention, support, and comfort.”
This is the message of the Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who are inviting the faithful throughout country to participate in a new charity campaign called “Feeding the poor.” The program is focused, in particular, on those who are suffering the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Recognising the time of God’s visitation
In a sermon, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk described the program: “Next Sunday [15 November, the World Day of the Poor], in all our parishes around the world, we will bring food to the churches to feed the poor.”
His Beatitude continued, “How we really need to recognize the time of God’s visitation, as Jesus Christ says! How important it is for us not to miss the moment when the living God comes to us here on this earth! How important it is for us to recognize the saving hand of God that is extended to us today! That is why the Holy Father today draws our attention to the rejected, the forgotten, the despised by modern society.”
A tradition of solidarity
The initiative, coordinated by the Bishops’ department for social services, will be launched on 15 November to coincide with the World Day of the Poor wanted by Pope Francis and is the result of the last meeting of the Synod of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Bishops.
In a pastoral message entitled “You will be left with only one thing: what you have given to the poor!” the Synod recalls that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has a long tradition of solidarity that has been particularly evident in times of trial: “Our hearts in the free world felt all the pain and oppression experienced by the Greek Catholics under the rule of the communist regime in their native lands,” the Bishops write. “From the diaspora, unceasing prayers were raised to heaven for the persecuted brothers and sisters in the faith, and a merciful and generous hand was extended to them in a gesture of solidarity, which became especially valuable and important after our Church left the catacombs”.
That same solidarity is reciprocated by Church in Ukraine, which today sends her priests to the communities of the Ukrainian diaspora.
Serving the needy
It is on this precious experience of solidarity and mutual support that the Ukrainian Church must build her present and future, the prelates stress – hence the invitation “to serve the needy on an ongoing basis”, which are ever more numerous in Ukraine because of poor economic choices that have impoverished the population, further aggravated by the ongoing war in the East of the country and now by the Coronavirus pandemic. “None of us is so poor that we cannot share anything with others,” the Bishops write. “Only hardness of heart can prevent us from doing so.” They add, “A heart that has a shred of Christ’s thoughts and feelings cannot but say ‘I feel sorry for these people’ in the face of pain and suffering.”