(Vatican Radio) Celebrating 85 years since the foundation of Saint Josaphat's Ukrainian Pontifical College in Rome, Pope Francis encouraged Ukrainian seminarians to become shepherds of communities in which love and respect for others will flourish.
The Saint Josaphat College was founded upon the wish of Pope Pius XI and is currently run by the Basilian monastic order.
In his message to future Ukrainian priests, Pope Francis recalled that the institution was built with the intent of conveying a message of love and closeness to those faithful “who live in areas of suffering and persecution”.
He invited them to prepare for their apostolic mission as deacons and priests studying the Church's Social Doctrine and recalling the example of Pope Pius XI whom, he said, “always and firmly raised his voice in defending the faith, the freedom of the Church and the transcendent dignity of every human person” while condemning the atheistic and inhumane ideologies that bloodied the 20th century.
“Also today the world is world is wounded by wars and violence” the Pope said with a particular reference to the beloved Ukrainian nation “from which you came and to where you will return” after having completed your studies in Rome.
Backing his encouragement to spread a culture of peace and acceptance with words from the Gospel, the Pope said “to you, seminarians and priests of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, these challenges may seem out of your reach; but let us remember the words of the Apostle John: I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.”
The Pope said that by loving and proclaiming the Word they will become true shepherds of the communities that will be entrusted to them.
“It [the Word] will be the lamp that illuminates your heart and your home, whether you prepare for celibacy or for married priesthood, according to tradition of your Church” he said.
Francis invited them to love and to guard their traditions avoiding all forms of sectarianism and he urged them to ask their flocks “to learn to love and respect each other, to abandon their weapons, to reject war and all kinds of abuse”.
“Never forget the Covenant between God and mankind” he said.
The Pope invoked the intercession of the Holy Mother of God who is venerated in the Ukrainian National Shrine of Zarvanytsya.
“She wants the priests of her Son to be like the torches lit at night in front of her Shrine reminding everyone, especially the poor and the suffering, and even those who perpetrate evil and sow violence and destruction, that the people who walked in the darkness saw a great light; that a light shone upon those who lived in a land of shadows” he said.
Pope Francis concluded revealing a personal devotion to the Ukrainian icon of Our Lady of Tenderness, a gift of the Major Archbishop from when they were together in Buenos Aires, and sharing his memory of a Ukrainian priest, Father Stepan Chmil, whom he knew when he was a young boy back in 1949 and from whom he learnt how to be an altar boy for the Ukrainian Mass: “He spoke of the persecutions, of the suffering, of the ideologies that persecuted Christians. And he taught me to be open to a different liturgy, something I always keep in my heart”.
The Pope also said that last time he was in Buenos Aires, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had asked him for testimonies with which to open the canonization process of Father Chmil who was ordained bishop in secrecy: “I wanted to remember him today because it is an act of justice to thank him before you for the good that he did to me”.