Catholic World News News Feature
Key concerns for Eastern churches: Ukraine, Holy Land, seminaries June 20, 2005
Church concerns in Ukraine and the Holy Land, and the training of seminarians, will be the top items on the agenda at a meeting this week of ROACO, an organization composed of groups that provide aid to the Eastern Catholic churches.
A spokesman for ROACO, Father Leo Lemmens, told a Vatican Radio audience that interest in Ukraine is keen for two reasons. First, the country's move toward democracy since the election of President Yushchenko has made it a country "in transition." Second, the Ukrainian Catholic Church-- resurgent despite limited resources since the fall of Communism-- is "a very important area for investment," Father Lemmens said. The secretary of ROACO added that the "delicate relations" between the Byzantine Catholics of Ukraine and the local Orthodox churches provide yet another reason for keen interest.
Regarding the life of the Church in the Holy Land, Father Lemmens continued, donors are always acutely aware of the struggle to find a basis for progress toward peace, and now "we all know that there has been some political change."
As for the formation of candidates for the priesthood and religious life, the ROACO official noted that there are 500 seminarians currently studying in Rome for service to the Eastern churches. But in their own countries, he continued, these seminarians can face quite different challenges. In Romania and Ukraine, after years of fierce persecution, the Catholic Church is enjoying robust growth, but severe financial constraints. In countries like India and Lebanon, seminarians have operated freely for years, but now face the need for re-evaluation. And in still other countries, such as Iraq and its neighbors, war and unrest create special problems for priestly formation.
Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, will attend the ROACO discussions in Rome June 20-24, along with Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic, the papal nuncio in Kiev. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the nuncio in the Holy Land, will also participate, as will Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Franciscan Custos of the Holy Land.