1=Pysanka, 2 or more=Pysanky



Last Thursday I frequented a favorite lunch stop, a Ukrainian delicatessen known for their variety of delicious handmade sausages. Upon entering the store, my eye was immediately drawn to a sales kiosk set up with a beautiful display of pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs). In years past this kiosk was manned by teenagers fundraising for their youth group. This year, however, it was being operated by members of Minnesota Maidan, to raise funds for those caught in war torn Ukraine. As I began to browse through the collection of beautiful eggs I couldn’t help but linger on the photos posted along the walls of the kiosk of the fighting and migration which brought my attention back to the hardships of the poor Ukrainian people.
Like the mainstream media, I had allowed myself to be distracted by the spree of terrorist attacks and the 2016 political campaign, and had all but forgotten the plight of Ukraine. Thank goodness local Ukrainians have not, and with some ambiguity, neither has the Pope. I am referring to February’s “historic” meeting between Pope Francis and the Russian Orthodox Church’s Patriarch, Kirill. Unfortunately, many Ukrainian Catholics felt betrayed by the signing of the joint declaration which came out of the meeting. To quote Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Schevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, “This text caused deep disappointment among many faithful of our church and among conscientious citizens of Ukraine. Today, many contacted me about this and said that they feel betrayed by the Vatican, disappointed by the half-truth nature of this document, and even see it as indirect support by the Apostolic See for Russian aggression against Ukraine.” You can find the full text of the interview with His Beatitude Archbishop Shevchuk at http://news.ugcc.ua/en/interview/two_parallel_worlds__an_interview_with_his_beatitude_sviatoslav_75970.html
His opinion was that Pope Francis was unwittingly exploited by Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion, chairman of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department for External Church Relations, whom he felt was the primary drafter of the declaration. “I found myself experiencing authentic admiration, respect, and a certain reverential awe for the humility of Pope Francis, a true “suffering servant of God.”, while he felt the document “was intended to be not theological, but essentially socio-political.”
Pope Francis was given an opportunity to address the concerns of Ukrainian Catholics during an on board press conference on his return trip from Mexico. When a French journalist pointed out to the Holy Father that many Ukrainians consider the joint declaration nothing more than “a political document that supports Russian politics.” The Pope responded:
‘In Ukraine, it’s a moment of war, of suffering, with so many interpretations. I have named the Ukrainian people, asking for prayers, closeness, so many times both in the Angelus and in the Wednesday audience. There is this closeness. But the historical fact of a war, experienced as…I don’t know if…well, everyone has their own idea of this war, who started it, what to do and it’s evident that this is a historical issue, but also a personal, historical, existential issue of that country and it speaks of the suffering.”
To be honest, I’m not sure what the Pope was talking about. Personally, I was hoping the Holy Father would use this as an opportunity for stronger moral leadership by pointing out that Russia had invaded Ukraine, as it had previously invaded Chechnya and Georgia.
The uneasiness generated by the declaration and subsequent interview responses prompted a March 5 meeting between Ukrainian Greek Catholic leaders and the Holy Father to ease their concerns. Although Ukrainian bishops were encouraged by the solidarity expressed by Pope Francis, a more important first step would be an acknowledgement from the Russian Orthodox Church for their responsibility for the liquidation of Ukrainian Catholic Churches in 1946. Moscow Patriarch Kirill has never publicly acknowledged this painful chapter in the history of these churches but, just recently, a group of leading Russian Orthodox intellectuals have done just that. On March 7 a letter, signed by them, admitted the participation by the Orthodox in this “crime of silence” and asking forgiveness from Ukrainian Greek Catholics for “all the injustice”. I think this is encouraging first step forward to help heal nearly a centuries old wound.
To help support the struggling people of Ukraine, I purchased two lovely pysanky, one for myself and one as gift.
Saints Cyril and Methodius pray for us.

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