From all corners of Italy faithful individuals and priests with their parishioners and communities of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church gathered together for the annual Christmas pilgrimage on December 26, 2016 in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
Among the pilgrims was a group of faithful from Ukraine and members of a choir from Ternopil and faithful of the Orthodox Church with their spiritual leaders. Representing the government was Mrs. Tetiana Izhevska, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the Vatican State. Numerous members of men’s and women’s religious communities in Rome and the vicinity were in attendance. Joining the pilgrims and from the Generalate House were General Superior - Mother Dia Stasiuk, Vicar General – Sister Lydia Anna Sawka, General Councillors – Sisters Mariela Rotzen, Nazariya Mykhaylyuk, and Emanuela Vavrekova, as well as, other Sisters from that community – Sisters Atanasia Anheluk and Mahdalyna Vytvytska. From the St. Sophia Basilian mission on Boccea in Rome were Sisters Makariia Glyuzdyn, Emmanuila Shumylo, Teodosia Zhesnyovska and Maria Pidluzhna.
Befor the beginning of the services, Rev. Ivan Stefurak spoke to the gathered, explaining the six-year history of the pilgrimage of Ukrainians to the Papal Basilicas in Rome, and emphasized that this year the pilgrimage commemorates the 400th anniversary of the Basilian Fathers, a significant event for the entire Church. Those participating in the commemoration and fulfilling particular requirements will be granted a special full plenary indulgence.
The heirarches and celebrating clergy processed into the Basilica. They and the pilgrims were greeted by His Eminence, Angelo Cardinal Comastri of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter, The main celebrant of the Heirarchal Divine Liturgy was Most Reverend Dionisio Lachovicz, Apostolic Administrator of Ukrainian Catholics in Italy and Spain; concelebrates included Most Reverend Irynej Bilyk, Canonic of the Papal Basilica of Maria Maggiore, Very Reverend Protoarchimandrate Genesio Viomar, OSBM, General Superior of the Order of Basilian Monks of St. Josaphat and numerous clergy – representatives of church branches, students and various monastic and religious communities in Rome and the vicinity. Liturgical repsonses were sung members of a choir from Ukraine and students from the Papal Collegio of St. Josaphat in Rome. Most Reverend Bishop Dionisio Lachovicz based his pastoral homily on the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord and our lives, centering on mercy, poverty and the light of the star. He tied all his thoughts to the present day, especially focussing on the lives of Ukrainian women-laborers. He explained that not all light comes from God, nor does each light point to God. That is why it is important to discern which light we are following in our lives. The homily encouraged and gave hope for those who follow God’s star, which always leads to Christ and dismisses the darkness of human error.
After the conclusion of the Heirarchal Divine Liturgy, Very Reverend Protoarchimandrate Genesio Viomar, OSBM thanked everyone for their shared prayer commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Basilian Order and repeated the conditions necessary to obtain the full plenary indulgence granted by His Holiness Pope Francis. The Coordinator of UGCC clergy in Italy, Reverend Volodymyr Voloshyn sincerely thanked all pilgrims who sacrificed and worked to come to Rome from all parts of Italy.
After a photo of all participants, heirarchs and clergy, followed by the faithful processed to the tomb of Priest-martyr St. Josaphat to honor him and give thanks to God for the gift of of his saintly work for the Universal Church.