2012-02-16 • NEWS
Pilgrimage of the Mukachevo Eparchy faithful to the Vatican
On Wednesday, December 14th our Pilgrims were able to attend two significant events. First – the Episcopal Divine Liturgy celebrated as main celebrant by Bishop Milan in the church of Saint Anthony at the Collegium Russicum where Blessed Theodore studied and received priestly ordination 75 years ago.
The second event was the meeting with the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, Pope of Rome at the general audience in the hall of Paul VI in Vatican City. The Holy Father addressed the pilgrims in Ukrainian language with Christmas greeting and expressing gratitude for the presented Christmas tree: “Sincere greetings to the pilgrims from Ukraine, in particular pilgrims from Mukachevo Eparchy that arrived with their Bishop Milan Šašik CM. I wish you all with a lively faith to live through the preparation time for Christmas that is nigh. Glory to Jesus Christ!” Bishop Milan greeting Holy Father presented his Holiness a book “New Churches of the Mukachevo Greek Catholic Eparchy” by Mykhaylo Syrokhman.
Towards the end of the audience, the faithful from Transcarpathia filled the hall of Paul VI with Christmas carols and wished the Holy Father many blessed years singing the traditional prayer “Where Peter’s Holy Grave.” The pilgrims divided into two groups in the afternoon and went on tours visiting famous churches and the architectural masterpieces of Rome.
The second day of their stay was unforgettable! The main celebrant of the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the Basilica of Saint Paul was Bishop Milan with 15 concelebrating priests behind the wall in the central part of the building near the tomb of Apostle Paul. It was here on December 26, 1936 that Blessed Theodore celebrated his first Divine Liturgy.
After completing their prayer at the tomb of the Apostle, the pilgrims continued sightseeing in Rome. In the evening, Vladyka Milan together with His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church participated in a thanksgiving Moleben to the Most Holy Mother of God in the Church of Saint Anthony at the Russicum. Those in attendance expressed gratitude to Archimandrite Robert Taft, SJ for after 45 years of teaching, the Eastern Liturgy is now returning to Boston, Massachusetts (USA). After the Moleben, Vladyka Milan thanked Father Robert for his many years of teaching of the students from Mukachevo Greek Catholic Eparchy.
On the third day of pilgrimage in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Tatyana Izhevsjka the Ambassador to Ukraine of the Apostolic See presented Vladyka Milan with an award from the Embassy of Ukraine for his part in building up the Ukrainian-Vatican diplomatic service and assistance in the program of “Ukrainian Christmas at the Vatican.” After that, the Episcopal Divine Liturgy was celebrated. Concelebrants were Bishop Milan and the Canon of the Basilica, Vladyka Irynej Bilyk OSBM along with other clergy from our eparchy. In his sermon, Bishop Milan mentioned that this church is special for us for the reason that Blessed Theodore often prayed here because it is located very near to Collegium Russicum, where he lived. On Christmas Day of 867 AD, Saints Cyril and Methodius brought liturgical books translated into Church-Slavonic language for the confirmation and blessing by the Pope. These liturgical books were placed on the altar of this same Basilica by the Pope Adrian II and the Divine Liturgy was celebrated in the Church-Slavonic language.
Over 350 pilgrims attended the Liturgy along with an official delegation of high-ranking officials and representatives of regional, city, district councils and administrations from Transcarpathia. After the Liturgy, the pilgrims prayed in front of the ancient miraculous icon of the Mother of God called “Salvation of the Roman people” that is located in this Basilica from the seventh century and before which the Saints Cyril and Methodius prayed. (Photos from Basilica.)
At noon in the Hall of Saint Clement, Pope Benedict XVI received the Ukrainian delegation to thank them for the Christmas tree that beautified the Square of St Peter during Christmas. Among those received by Pope Benedict were: His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; His Excellency Meczislaw Mokrszyckij, Head of the Conference of the Roman-Catholic Bishops of Ukraine; His Excellency Milan Šašik CM, Eparch of Mukachevo; Bishops Dionizij Liachowycz OSBM and Irynej Bilyk OSBM, representatives of the Orthodox Church headed by His Grace Filip, Arhcbishop of Poltava and Myrgorod and numerous clergy, religious, seminarians, and pilgrims from Ukraine and local people from the Ukrainian communities of Rome and other cities, towns and villages of Italy.
The Government delegation was lead by Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, Borys Kolesnikov, who delivered the salutatory address. Also present were the Ambassador of Ukraine at the Apostolic See, the Minister of Culture, Heads of State and Councils of Transcarpathia and L’viv, the L’viv City mayor, Khust mayor and deputies and representatives of the institutions involved in transportation of the Christmas tree.
At the Audience, the Holy Father was also greeted by representatives of Transcarpathian authorities and by a 77 year old parishioner from Rakhiv, Ivan Doroban, that gave to Pope Benedict his painting on which he depicted the presented Christmas tree growing in the Transcarpathian woods with the Mountains in the background. (Audience photos.)
Meanwhile, Saint Peter’s Square was getting ready for the lighting of the Christmas tree. Gathered here were 400 pilgrims from Transcarpathia, over 200 Transcarpathian Greek Catholics that live in Hungary and many Transcarpathians and Ukrainians from other regions of Ukraine that travelled to Italy for seasonal work. Singing Christmas carols, the choir from Uzhgorod Holy Cross Cathedral invited everyone to join in. The Salutatory address was delivered on behalf of the Vatican State by Giuseppe Bertello, President of the Vatican State; and on behalf of Ukraine - Vice Prime Minister Borys Kolesnikov; the Head of UGCC His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav; His Excellency Meczislaw and His Excellency Vladyka Milan, Eparch of Mukachevo. In his speech, Bishop Milan emphasized the importance of the fact that in the year during which we celebrate 100th anniversary of the birth, the 75th anniversary of the priestly ordination and the 10th anniversary of the beatification of the Blessed Martyr Theodore, the Christmas tree was delivered to St Peter’s Square from Transcarpathia, moreover, it grew only few kilometers for the place of birth of the Blessed Theodore. (Opening ceremony photos.)
After the official opening of the Christmas tree, most of the pilgrims returned to Ukraine, however on Saturday December 17, a few score of pilgrims from Transcarpathia along with Bishop Milan visited Saint Peter's Basilica. In the crypt of Basilica at the tomb of the Apostle St Peter, Vladyka Milan celebrated the Hierarchal Divine Liturgy and thanked God for the gift of this pilgrimage. (Photos from the Liturgy.)