“This morning, before the General Audience, Pope Francis welcomed the Bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the study of the Paul vi Hall”. Matteo Bruni, Director of the Holy See Press Office, made this announcement in a communiqué to journalists on Wednesday, 6 September.
During their meeting, which lasted nearly two hours, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk recalled the painful situation in which his country finds itself, with an increasing number of dead, wounded and tortured people, and he thanked the Pope for the affection shown in so many ways and on so many occasions. Then different participants intervened, each sharing the suffering that the Ukrainian people are experiencing in different places and in different ways.
Pope Francis listened attentively to the words addressed to him, and with some brief interventions, expressed his feelings of closeness and participation in the tragedy that the Ukrainians are experiencing, with a “dimension of martyrdom” that is not spoken about enough, subjected to cruelty and criminality. He expressed his sorrow for the sense of helplessness experienced in the face of war, “a thing of the devil, who desires to destroy”, and he turned his thoughts especially to the Ukrainian children he has met during his audiences: “They look at you and have forgotten their smile”, he said, adding, “This is one of the fruits of war: taking children’s smiles away from them”.
In response to the cruelty of war, the need for more prayer, for conversion and for the end of the conflict arose, and, giving way to a request received during the meeting, the Pope expressed his desire that during the month of October, especially in Marian shrines, the Rosary be dedicated to peace, and to peace in Ukraine.
Speaking about his recent meeting with young Russians, the Pope then talked about the response he had given to journalists on the return flight from Mongolia.
Lastly, he recalled the example of Jesus during the Passion, who did not remain a victim of insults, torture and crucifixion, but bore witness to the courage to speak the truth, to be close to the people so that they would not be discouraged. “This is not easy”, he said. “This is holiness, and the people want us to be saints and teachers of this way that Jesus taught us”.
To conclude, before praying to Our Lady together, the Pope confided to the Bishops that he remembers the Ukrainians every day in his prayer before the icon of the Virgin, which the Major Archbishop had given the Pope before he left Buenos Aires.