Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. YouTube screenshot.
The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church urged his flock Wednesday to set aside “fear and sorrow” as they celebrate Christmas.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk issued the appeal on 6 January, when Ukrainian Catholics who follow the Julian calendar observe Christmas Eve.
“Today the angel says to all of us: ‘Do not be afraid!’ While standing before the Lord’s Nativity scene, let fear and sorrow disappear from our hearts today,” he said.
In a video message recorded at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, he alluded to the difficulties facing the country, which has been blighted by war since 2014.
“Greetings to those who are in Ukraine and those who are in the settlements; to those who celebrate it at the front or in prison, or perhaps in a hospital bed,” he said.
“But He came to all of us today to give His blessing, to lift us up, to fill us with vitality, joy, and optimism.”
Pope Francis also sent greetings to Christians around the world who celebrate Christmas Day today.
In his Angelus address on yesterday, the pope said: “I extend my affection to the brothers and sisters of the Oriental Churches, Catholic and Orthodox, who, according to their tradition celebrate the Nativity of the Lord tomorrow. To them, I extend my most heartfelt wishes for a Holy Christmas in the light of Christ our peace and our hope.”
The pope tweeted the greeting this morning.
Shevchuk has led the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome, since 2011.
He has highlighted the plight of Ukrainians following the outbreak of war in the Donbas region. He has also stressed the need for ecumenical dialogue in the country, which has seen sharp divisions between Catholics and Orthodox Christians, as well as within the Orthodox communion.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic celebration of Christmas ends on 19 January, the feast of the Epiphany, also known as Yordan, commemorating the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.
Concluding his Christmas message, Shevchuk said: “May the Lord, born in Bethlehem, be our light and our leading star in the coming years of our lives. May the Savior bless each of our families, wipe away every tear from our eyes, and may sorrow turn to joy.”