On the second day of the Feast of the Nativity (Gregorian calendar), December 26, 2017 the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican filled with Ukrainians from all corner of Italy. They gathered to united their hearts and prayers in thanksgiving to God and to share with one another the joy of the birth of Jesus Christ and together sing the traditional Christmas carols.
The Hierarchal Divine Liturgy was celebrated by Most Reverend Dionisio Lachovicz, Apostolic Visitator for Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Italy, and concelebrated by Most Reverend Irynej Bilyk, Canon of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major (Maria Maggiore). Concelebrating were over thirty priests – superiors and heads or representatives of religious orders, organizations, parishes and communities of the faithful of the UGCC in Italy. Many priests were available for the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession. Women in consecrated life were present, including General Superior Mother Dia Stasiuk, the General Councilors of the Order of Sisters of Saint Basil the Great and other Basilian Sisters, ministering or studying in Rome. Also attending were Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate with their General Superior and the Sister Catechists of St. Anne. In this prayerful setting following the reading of the Gospel, Most Reverend Dionisio Lachovicz gave a pastoral homily to the gathered faithful numbering over two thousand. He encouraged each person to look for the face of God in every person encountered, thereby recognizing God’s presence in each individual. This helps us bring God’s presence to others, sharing their joys, troubles and sufferings. After the Divine Liturgy the head of the organization “Emigrantis”, Reverend Pierpaolo Felikolo encouraged the faithful of the UGCC to maintain their identity and faith while living in Italy and to deepen their spiritual and national heritage. Representing the Roman Vicariate, he stated that they are open to supporting the work of the UGCC in Italy for the good of the faithful of the UGCC, who enrich the entire church.
Afterwards, all the pilgrims exited into St. Peter’s Piazza to pray the Angelus with the Holy Father, who specifically acknowledged the annual national pilgrimage, assuring the faithful that he remembers and supports them and their homeland Ukraine, which continues to suffer from conflict and difficulties. Pope Francis imparted a blessing to all present.