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Visit to Ukraine of H. B. Gregorios III
Lesding a delegation from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church
On the occasion of the consecration of
H. B. Sviatoslav (Shevchuk)
New Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
(26-28 March 2011)
At daybreak on Saturday 26 March 2011, H. B. Gregorios III, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, of Alexandria and of Jerusalem, left Beirut airport for Kiev, via Paris, accompanied by H.E. John Haddad, Metropolitan Emeritus of Tyre and H.E. Michel Abras, titular Archbishop of Myra and Bishop of the Patriarchal Curia and Rev. Fr. Elias Shatawi, the Patriarchate's Economos General and Secretary of the Liturgical Commission. His Beatitude and the accompanying delegation were going to Ukraine for the consecration of the new Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, H.B. Sviatoslav (Shevchuk), successor to H.M.E.B. Cardinal Lubomyr (Husar), who retired in February for health reasons.
Having arrived at Kiev airport at noon on Saturday, His Beatitude and delegation were surprised and deeply touched to be met by H.M.E.B. Cardinal Lubomyr, who, despite his blindness, had wished personally to welcome our Patriarch. Also present were H.E. Mr. Youssef Sadaka, the Lebanese ambassador, Mr. Akram Halabi, member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Upper Council in Lebanon, and Fr. Dn. Volodymyr Malchyn, Vice-Chancellor of the Major Archbishop's Curia, who accompanied us for the duration of our visit.
At the close of the welcome ceremony, the Melkite Greek Catholic delegation was invited to a fraternal dinner at the home of Major Archbishop Emeritus Lubomyr, before being accompanied to their hotel, arranged by Mr. Akram Halabi.
On Saturday evening, our Patriarch and the delegates toured the architectural treasures of Kiev: the wonderful Church of the Divine Wisdom (Aghia Sophia), dating from the eleventh century, and the adjacent metropolitan palace. Then they were invited by H.E. Ambassador Sadaka to dinner at the Coryphea restaurant in honour of His Beatitude. At the dinner, besides the three members of the patriarchal delegation, were the Syrian Ambassador, H. E. Mr. Mohamed Akil, three bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Canada and the United States of America, and Mr. Riad Ibrahim (a Lebanese Greek Orthodox from Koura, the proprietor of the restaurant).
On Sunday, 27 March 2011, the third Sunday of Lent and the Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross, was an historic day for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
The ceremony began at 10a.m. with a procession of 350 priests, sixty bishops, and our Patriarch and the Major Archbishop elect following, surrounded by deacons, to the still unfinished Cathedral of the Resurrection, whose five golden cupolas reflected the rays of the sun shining on the two thousand faithful present.
The Divine Liturgy lasted four hours, beginning with the enthronement of the new Major Archbishop, on whom several bishops in turn bestowed the archiepiscopal omophorion (embroidered with crosses and five stripes), the engolpion of the Panaghia, the crown or mitre, the ravdhos (T-shaped pastoral crosier) and the dikirion and trikirion, with which H. B. Sviatoslav blessed the faithful, facing the four compass-points. At the end of the celebration, H. B. Gregorios III gave a speech expressing his joy at the event. This Divine Liturgy, with its Slavonic chants, the strong, deep voice of the Protodeacon and the deep prostrations of the faithful transported us beyond time to the heavenly Divine Liturgy.
We were deeply touched by the great respect which the Ukrainians feel for our Church in general and our Patriarch in particular, as he was treated as guest of honour at this grandiose ceremony. This respect was shown especially by the liturgical commemoration of our Patriarch in the diaconal litanies and by the Major Archbishop himself.
Besides the outgoing Apostolic Nuncio, (recently appointed to the Russian Federation) Archbishop Ivan Jurković, several representatives of other Eastern Catholic Churches and Latin hierarchy, the highly symbolic presence of Orthodox bishops was remarked, including representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate and Patriarch Filaret, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Patriarchate of Kyiv.
After the Divine Liturgy, our Patriarch and the accompanying delegation were invited to dinner in honour of the new Major Archbishop. H. B. Gregorios III then gave to his Ukrainian counterpart an epitrakhelion and an omophorion embroidered by Sister Photeine, an Orthodox nun from the Convent of the Presentation of Our Lady at Ashrafieh (near Beirut.)
After dinner, we were given a guided tour of the Great Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, the Monastery of the Caves, which is the cradle of the spirituality of Rus. We were allowed to venerate the bodies, incorrupt for a thousand years, of the holy monks who were the pioneers of monastic life in this holy land.
Haydn's Oratorio The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross and dinner ended the festivities of this great day.
On Monday, 28 March at 9:30a.m., H.B. Gregorios III and the delegation from the Melkite Greek Catholic Church were the official guests of the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, met for its closing session.
Our Patriarch was given the floor and he then gave a moving speech (see the text on our Patriarchate's website) to the Synodal Fathers, who thanked him with a minute's applause. Their Beatitudes then exchanged symbolic presents: an antimension – sign of communion – from our Patriarch, and marvellously decorated Easter eggs from H. B. Sviatoslav.
At the airport, the Lebanese Ambassador, H. E. Mr. Sadaka, bade our Patriarch and the delegation farewell, wishing us a safe return trip. At 12:30p.m., our plane left that land sanctified by the blood of old and new martyrs, and we brought back with us the memory of that holy Church in the hope of brotherly collaboration between our two Churches.
Rev. Fr. Economos Elias Shatawi
His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk)
Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych of Ukraine
Elected on 23 March 2011 by the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and confirmed on the next day but one (25 March 2011) by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, the new Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych of Ukraine is H. B. Sviatoslav (Shevchuk).
Born in Stryj (Western Ukraine) on 5 May 1970, he was at first a clandestine seminarian (while the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church was proscribed); ordained priest on 26 June 1994 for the Archeparchy of Lviv, he took his doctorate in theology (with a specialisation in anthropology) at the Pontifical University of the Angelicum in Rome, then became in turn prefect, vice-rector and rector of the Major Seminary of Lviv, while being at the same time private secretary to Cardinal Lubomyr Husar.
On January 14 2009, he was designated by the Holy Father Auxiliary Bishop of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Buenos Aires and received episcopal cheirotonia on the following 7 April at the hands of the Ukrainian Archbishop of Lviv, H. E. Ihor Voznyak; on 10 April 2010, following the Eparch's resignation, he was designated Apostolic Administrator of the Buenos Aires Eparchy.
Besides Ukrainian, the new Major Archbishop speaks English, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish.
Translation from French: V. Chamberlain