PASTORAL LETTERS

Memorandum of the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States of America regarding of the COVID-19 pandemic

“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt. 25, 40)Dear clergy, religious, and faithful!Responding to the outbreak of the global pandemic virus COVID-19, which has been spreading with lightning speed across the globe, we, bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States, united in solidarity, wish to address you with assurances of our joint prayers and efforts. Bound together in our care for the spiritual and physical health of our faithful, we would like to inform you about certain norms and practices intended to confirm us in faith and truth, safeguarding all members of our communities, especially the most vulnerable, and preventing the spread of disease.Keeping in mind the fragility of human life and acknowledging with humility the limits of human reason and resources, we are called to do all that is possible to help the national government, local authorities, and medical personnel to fight the spread of the virus.Medical workers and scientists are unanimous in warning that this fight will be protracted, one that will require the solidarity of all people across the globe. The speed of transportation and the globalization of today’s world facilitate the spread of the virus. But the quality of our interpersonal relations and our solidarity—and it is Christ who grants these gifts—are able to slow down the contagion that takes more and more lives every day. The experience of the countries that squarely faced the consequences of the virus and acted quickly and decisively shows that it is possible.“Love your neighbor!” These times call us to faith in God, trust in each other, focused efforts, solidarity and coordinated actions. Love, we know, entails closeness, even intimacy. In today’s circumstances, however, a certain distance may be the proper expression of interpersonal love and civic responsibility. Thus, the Ukrainian Catholic Church supports governmental regulations and public health measures connected with the pandemic. We ask you, our dear faithful, to follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and take care of your personal safety and hygiene as well as of those around you.Christ is in our midst! Unfortunately, the necessary public health norms on social distancing, including restrictions on public meetings, make it impossible for the Church to carry on our usual rhythms. At the same time, despite the difficult situation, the Church does not stop Her activity and service. We are called to be creative in living our communion. We Christians continue to bear witness to the presence of God in the created world, to His action in the life of all people, to His love for every person. It is the hour to show our love and care for the elderly in our communities, who today are most at risk and for all who experience social isolation.These times of trial are a unique opportunity to manifest our love for God and neighbor. Today, when we are limited in public liturgical practices, our life in Christ will be measured by the authentic quality of our personal relationship with God and neighbor: in private and family prayer and in works of charity. In the midst of today’s pandemic caring for one’s neighbor calls for clear and immediate expression.The experience of our underground Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (1945–1989) is a source of inspiration and faith for us. In recent memory having been deprived of all of its church buildings and all other infrastructure, the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine and elsewhere in the communist world was led by God to find creative ways to foster the spiritual life of its members for two generations. Through excruciating suffering and great losses, our Church was forged, cleansed, and prepared for a new life in a new millennium. Now is the time to prayerfully reflect upon this salvation history. The Lord will guide us again in fortitude and flexibility to praise Him and foster communion and solidarity among us. 

Public Services

1. All weekday and Sunday services will be celebrated temporarily without the participation of the assembly of the faithful. Our clergy will continue to celebrate and pray for you and with you vicariously. We will celebrate the Divine Liturgies and other services in behalf of and for all of you, especially for the sick and the healthcare providers. We will beseech the Lord for wise and prudent decisions on the part of government and medical authorities. We will pray for the eternal repose of the deceased. We are obligating our priests to be steadfast in prayer for their flock. Be as Moses, who raised his hands in prayer so that whole people of God could prevail over the enemy (cf. Ex 17, 11-12).

2. Our churches will remain open for private prayer at designated times. We ask the pastors to guarantee the safety and frequent disinfection of our churches.

3. We renew and confirm the dispensation from the obligation to participate in Sunday services. At the same time, we ask you to pray as a Domestic Church (as a family or household unit) on Sundays and on Holy Days. We suggest making use of the ZhyveTV and internet resources of your eparchy or parish. Read prayerfully the Holy Scriptures, reflect upon the source and meaning of your life, on God’s love and salvific action on our behalf.

4. We encourage you to make best use of the quarantine time, which coincides with Great Lent, for personal prayer, reading the Word of God, and building a more profound relationship with Our Lord, our neighbors and in our families.

5. We ask that all the Lenten practices — e.g., missions and spiritual exercises — be held with the aid of the internet and other means of social communication.

Sacraments and Sacramentals

1. We kindly ask that you postpone, in consultation with your pastor, the Sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism and Chrismation) and Matrimony.

2. The faithful can avail themselves of the Sacrament of Repentance (Confession) in church, taking all necessary precautions for social distancing.

3. In cases of grave illness or danger of death, priests are obligated to administer the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, while assuring safety for all involved.

4. Priests will celebrate funerals with the participation only of the immediate family members of the deсeased, according to local regulations regarding public assemblies.

Practical advice

1. Dear priests, religious, sisters and brothers! If you feel sick, we urge you to stay at home, call your doctor, and obey all medical and civil regulations.

2. We encourage our pastors to maintain personal contact with their faithful, especially with the elderly and sick by phone and via social media. Our priestly ministry continues without ceasing.

3. Confessions are to take place in the open, not in a confessional. Safety of the penitent and priest must be assured.

4. Frequently sanitize with disinfectant whatever people tend to touch in the churches: pews, door handles, etc.

5. During private prayer in church, maintain a safe distance from each other (6 feet or 2 meters)

6. Venerate icons and the Cross by bowing your head and with a sign of the cross or by prostrations. Do not kiss icons or the Cross.

7. Comply with the guidelines and prescriptions of governmental authorities (town, county, state, federal) regarding public gatherings and personal safety.

These norms are effective immediately after being published on Wednesday, March 19, 2020. We carefully follow developments, consult experts and will update our norms and regulations according to new information and circumstances.God is calling us to a new and deeper spiritual awareness. We encourage you to stay united in the communion of the Holy Spirit! Pray! Stay vigilant! Sing, smile, and laugh! Exercise and read! Pay attention to your health and help people who are under risk in your family as well as in your neighborhood! Communicate and support each other in spirit and deed! 

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

+ Borys GudziakArchbishop of Philadelphia for UkrainiansMetropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States

+ Paul Chomnycky, OSBMEparch of Stamford

+ Вenedict AleksiychukEparch of St. Nicholas in Chicago

+ Bohdan J. DanyloEparch of St. Josaphat in Parma

+ Andriy RabiyAuxiliary Bishop of PhiladelphiaMarch 18, 2020from Metropolitan Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Philadelphia, PA

2019 Easter Pastoral Letter of His Beatitude Sviatoslav

Most Reverend Archbishops and Bishops,
Very Reverend and Reverend Fathers,
Venerable Brothers and Sisters in Monastic and Religious Life,
Dearly Beloved Laity in Christ of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church

Christ is Risen!

Let us rise at early dawn
And bring to our Master a hymn instead of myrrh,
And we shall see Christ, the Sun of righteousness
Who enlightens the life of all.
Ode 5, Paschal Canon

Beloved in Christ!

Today heaven and earth, angels and men proclaim to the whole universe the most profound of all truths: Christ is risen! The power of this salutation is felt by all of us, from the youngest to the oldest, as we respond: Truly, really, indeed Christ is risen! In all languages, we solemnly proclaim this truth using the words of the Gospel for Pascha: “and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (Jn 1:14). We are all lifted up with unspeakable joy and are given new life through Christ’s Resurrection—for He rises and lives in order that we too might live and rise in Him and with Him.

Let us rise at early dawn and bring to our Master a hymn instead of myrrh…

The radiance of the resurrection of the Sun of righteousness was first seen by the myrrh-bearing women in the darkness of a night filled with disappointment, despair, and fear. With tears in their eyes, they carry myrrh for the deceased, worrying about whether someone will be there to roll aside the great stone at the entrance to the tomb. Each one of us, having experienced the death and funeral of someone close to us, can understand the pain in the hearts of the myrrh-bearing women as they go to bid a final farewell to their Teacher. But lo, they come upon a different, unexpected reality. An angel in a white garment proclaims to them: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mk 16:6).

Our Paschal Matins calls on us to “rise up,” that is, to awaken from sleep and be open to the Divine unexpected. To rise up means tо look out for that which is true, genuine, and authentic: look to recognize the Truth, look to not be fooled by that which is false and deceitful; look to encounter the Risen One. His radiance reveals to us the truth about Himself, about that which is worthy of our efforts, labours, and suffering, which is worthy of our action as Church, as a community and as an entire people. The truth that Christ is risen is as real and certain as the fact that the sun will rise and the day will take the place of the night. The Resurrection of Christ as the Sun of righteousness “enlightens life” for us. It shows us not only the true meaning of what the myrrh-bearing women were seeking but also the meaning of every person’s life, suffering, and even death: we are created for resurrection in Christ and our life on earth is an awakening to the expectation of this resurrection. Let the words of the Psalmist be our song in light of the Resurrection: “Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day” (Ps 96:1-2).

And we shall see Christ, the Sun of righteousness…

We live in a cultural world of fakery and untruth, of false commodities and deceptive ideologies. The age of post-truth is upon us. Truth is, it would seem, manufactured according to an individual’s private interests, “on special order,” with no connection to what is actually happening in regards to entire nations, cultures, and individual persons.

For a person today, truth is ceasing to have value. Therefore, all Christians who believe that Christ is truly risen should ask themselves: is truth still important for me? Is it possible that sometimes I neglect the truth because it is more comfortable for me to live without it, to not be bothered by searching for it? Am I able to be truthful with myself about my own life and my shortcomings, or do I attribute them to others and blame others for my own sins?

The environment we live in today, in the midst of “fakery and deceit,” is a veritable night for humanity and, essentially, the death and burial of the human spirit. Without truth, humanity dies like a flower without the sun. The prophet Isaiah cautions against such evil, saying: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Is 5:20-21).
To celebrate Pascha, the Resurrection of our Lord, in the midst of such a night is to be a servant of Truth, a torch for the Sun of righteousness—Christ, who enlightens our life. The example of the myrrh-bearing women is a call to us to search for the Risen Saviour. The myrrh which they carry to anoint the body of Jesus, laid in the tomb, is a symbol of our personal duty to search for truth and move toward it, serve it, bear witness to it before the powerful of the world, even at the risk of our own life. Bearing witness to the truth—this is the paschal calling of every Christian.

The Truth has its own power. It overcomes falsehood as triumphantly as Christ conquered death, as light dispels darkness, or the sun drives out the remnants of the night. With the courage to live in truth, we can become witnesses to the power of Christ’s Resurrection. It is a truth that must be shown with our very lives rather than defended merely with words, following the example of the myrrh-bearing women, who persisted in their witness before the Apostles, even when these would not believe.

Who enlightens the life of all.

As a people, we often have experienced the murderous power of falsehood. We have been robbed and are still being robbed of the truth about our past. False ideologies have been forced and are being forced upon us in order to destroy our present. In times of pre-election campaigns, we have been the target of deception and are still being fooled, so as to rob us of our future. The war which our nation is waging is, in reality, nothing less than a war against falsehood, lies, and all that they bring about in the lives of individuals and society, in international relations, and in the very existence of the global community.

This is why the good news of Pascha-day is so important for us: Christ is truly risen! The teaching of our Lord and Saviour is for us a beacon and a signpost. Indeed, the struggle against falsehood begins in the depth of the human heart. The chief Apostle Peter wrote this appeal: “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pt 1:22-23).

Let us, therefore, live in the light of the Risen One, before whom no darkness or falsehood can stand. Let us believe in the truth that is Christ and serve the truth in all spheres of human life—and Ukraine with its people will be invincible. Every initiative built on lies will collapse, as it was with the Communist empire of evil. Let us build our nation on truth and justice, no matter how bitter and difficult that may seem. The Risen Christ has the power to enlighten our life and raise us up to a new future.
Indeed today, in light of the authentic Truth that is Christ we must examine our past and, with trust in the Risen Saviour, we must order our present. Precisely now, by the power of his victory against falsehood, we must build our future—one that is not illusionary, dark, and sorrowful, but brilliant and joyful, in the fullness of life, which we have in the Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! In this bright, joyful day I wish to greet you all with the Pascha of our Lord. May the light of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, enlighten all of you to responsible service of the truth and grant you courage and perseverance in the face of dark and evil falsehood. To all of you, in Ukraine and throughout the world, I send you my heartfelt greeting together with sincere prayers. To all the soldiers at the front lines and their families, to all refugees and to those who are on the occupied territories, to all captives and prisoners for the sake of their conscience, to the young and old, to those in good and in poor health—I wish all of you the joy of life that is grounded in the truth of God’s infinite love for us. I embrace you with fatherly love and send you my sincere wishes for a blessed Easter feast, a tasty sharing of our traditional blessed egg, and a Paschal joy that is full of light.

The grace of our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Christ is risen! – Truly, He is risen!

SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the Synaxis of the Archangel Gabriel,
April 8, 2019 A.D.

PASTORAL LETTER OF HIS BEATITUDE SVIATOSLAV TO YOUTH ON PALM SUNDAY

Beloved in Christ Youth in Ukraine and abroad!

With great joy, as every year, on the occasion of Palm Sunday commemorating Jesus’ triumphal entry in Jerusalem, I wish to address you with this pastoral message. For indeed youth, in the words of Pope Francis, is the divine “now” of our Church and people to whom God wants to reveal His presence, His mercy, and His salvation. As Christ did then, when He entered into His royal city and inaugurated the triumphant coming of His Kingdom in humble service, so also in His eternal “now” through you He wishes to carry His light and His hope into the world. The future depends on your openness to Christ, your sensitivity to the living reality of your Church and people, and your ability to take on responsibility for yourselves and the world.

According to recent sociological surveys, the majority of young Ukrainians see freedom as the most important value in their life. It should be pointed out that this is also the position of a great part of the adult population. For post-Soviet Ukrainian society, such a shifting of values can be seen as a real breakthrough. Indeed, after decades of captivity and bloody communist terror, the freedom-loving spirit of our ancestors has awoken, a spirit which until now no enemy could break or extinguish. This is not surprising, for true freedom gives us the possibility to express our dignity, to fulfil our noble aspirations and goals. It enables us to feel free from all kinds of enslavement so that we might live in truth and create what is beautiful and good. As my predecessor, His Beatitude Lubomyr, aptly stated: “freedom is the possibility to create the good.”

As the year 2013 drew to a close, they sought to deprive us of the possibility to fulfil our national dream—the dream for a free, united, European Ukraine. And it is not by chance that opposing forces chose as their target none other than the youth. Church bells awoke our conscience, and on the Maidan, with great cost, we defended our right to do good in freedom, to live in liberty on our God-given land. Among the heroes of the Heavenly Hundred were our colleagues—students, sportsmen, volunteers, young parents. From the divine eternal “now,” they look down on us today in order to once again by the bells of our conscience awaken us to sensitivity and responsibility. Today our freedom is being preserved before the Russian aggressor by those fighting in the Eastern part of Ukraine at great cost and personal sacrifice. We have no right to stab them in the back.

Beloved in Christ! Freedom is not merely a human value, of which no one has the right to deprive us. True freedom is a gift from God which we received in Jesus Christ. St. Paul reminds us: “for freedom Christ has set us free,” and he immediately cautions us, “stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). Entering into the capital city of Jerusalem, the Lord brings the good news of salvation, the good news of freedom. This freedom he proposes not as one who enslaves and oppresses. Throughout our national history, especially in the last century, we were visited many times by “liberators” who, hiding behind deceptive slogans about equality and freedom, brought with them terror, destruction, and death. Christ, on the other hand, in humble service by which He gave His life on the cross for our liberation and freedom, becomes the source and foundation of authentic divine freedom, which brings peace, gives hope, calls to growth. “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh…” (Gal 5:13). This call to growth in freedom is at the same time a call to mature responsibility. For today the enemy of our salvation—personal and national—once again seeks to lull our sensitivity. He wants us to see freedom as a right without personal effort, for us to “go with the flow,” while setting aside high aspirations and ideals.

True freedom is not possible without responsibility. Freedom without responsibility, in fact, becomes a blind and destructive force, а recklessness that closes its eyes to that which has been achieved thus far, destroys the present good—personal and common—and places in doubt the personal and national “tomorrow.” During the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, it was the youth that joined the ranks of Christ’s disciples and revealed their openness of heart and responsibility in the face of epochal changes and upheavals.

Dear youth! Today’s Gospel event teaches us to choose with maturity and responsibility—to stand on the side of truth, goodness, and justice, to stand against manipulations, cunning propaganda, and empty promises of an easy and carefree future. The history of salvation shows all of us that the path from slavery to freedom is difficult and long, and it must be travelled from day to day, steadily and patiently. There may be mistakes made on this path, but it would be awful for us to fall into an ill-conceived indifference and thoughtlessness by which we, often even unawares, cross over to the side of our enemy, having freely submitted once again to his tyranny.

Today in Ukraine we are demonstrating our national and Christian maturity through our participation in the elections for President of Ukraine. For some of you, this is, possibly, the first election in your life. This same day may become decisive for the fate of the county for decades, and even for its very existence. Therefore, I call upon you to mature responsibility. Only a mature person is capable of foreseeing the consequences of one’s choices and take personal responsibility for them. Let us not let anyone take Ukraine for a fool, scoff at the blood and suffering of our people, who fight for true freedom at the cost of their own life.

In order for you to be able to better and more conscientiously make a personal decision with responsibility, I would like to recall the criteria which at one time His Beatitude Lubomyr of blessed memory proposed, and according to which, in his opinion, it is imperative to evaluate candidates to positions of authority in government: professionalism, integrity, patriotism. Only one who has all three traits can be worthy of our trust. Today our entire Church calls upon the Holy Spirit to send down His grace on our youth, trusting that its choice, as well as the choice of our entire people, will bring good news to Ukraine and the world, just as the choice of the youth of Jerusalem became a famous part of the Gospel of Christ Himself!

The young faithful of our Church, who reside outside Ukraine and are not participating in the elections today, I wish to also call to responsibility in our communities—ecclesial and social. Take responsibility for the future of the country where you reside, do not be afraid to achieve success and perform service at the highest levels of society and thus to be a source of pride for your native people and your Church. Become active members of your parish and the Ukrainian community. And so will you, as the divine “now” will create a better future for yourselves, your descendants, the Church and all of humanity.

My dear youth! I greet you with this special youth day! Thank you for your active, mature, and responsible Christian life position. Be assured: who follows Christ and their life walks in the ways of God, such a person will always achieve a blessed goal—true freedom and happiness, which do not pass away.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

+ SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the Day of the Venerable Mark, Bishop of Arethusa, and Deacon Cyril, and others martyred by the persecutor Julian, April 11, 2019 A.D.