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Pope pays tribute to Ukrainian Catholics’ loyalty as hierarchy reaffirms communion

March 07, 2016

The governing body of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church—the largest of the Eastern Catholic churches in full communion with the Holy See—gathered in Rome to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its suppression by the Soviet Communist regime of Joseph Stalin.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and other members of the church’s permanent synod met with Pope Francis on March 5 amid tensions over the wording of portions of the recent joint declaration of the Pope and Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

“We reaffirm what no totalitarian regime could break: our communion with Rome and the universal Church,” said Major Archbishop Shevchuk. “And the Holy Father heard us.”

“The people are suffering, Holy Father, and they await your embrace,” he added. “Pope Francis made it clear that he would act … The Holy Father emphasized that one cannot solve ecumenical problems at the expense of an entire Eastern Catholic church.”

In a message to the major archbishop, Pope Francis recalled the events of 1946 and said that “ideas that were contrary to the very existence of your church, led to the organization of a pseudo-synod in Lviv, and caused decades of suffering for the pastors and the faithful.”

“In sad memory of these events we bow our heads in deep gratitude before those, who at the cost of suffering and even martyrdom, continued to witness the faith in the course of time and to show dedication to the Church in union with the Successor of Peter,” he added.

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