Also will visit the tomb of his elementary school tutor who taught him how to serve Divine Liturgy in this rite.
At the invitation of Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev and Galicia and primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Pope Francis will visit the Hagia Sophia Basilica in Rome on January 28, according to an announcement from the Holy See’s Press Office today. The meeting will be a “sign of solidarity with the Ukranian people,” said Archbishop Shevchuk.
In addition to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic community in Rome, the pontiff will meet Archbishop Shevchuk, said a statement from the Ukrainian Catholic Church. There are about 200,000 Ukrainian Catholics in Italy, about 14,000 of whome live in Rome and the surrounding region.
The meeting with Ukrainian Catholics is a sign of “solidarity with the Ukrainian people, who have suffered for several years from the war in Donbass,” said Archbishop Shevchuk.
On January 8, during his greetings to the diplomatic corps, Pope Francis declared that a common commitment to “rebuilding bridges” was “urgent” in Ukraine. Since the beginning of 2014, an armed conflict between loyalists and pro-Russian separatists has left 9,000 dead, 20,000 wounded, and 500,000 displaced in this region bordering Russia.
Prayer at the tomb of Bishop Stefan Czmil
At the Basilica of Hagia Sophia, the pope will go to the tomb of Bishop Stefan Czmil, his tutor at his elementary school in Buenos Aires. Last November 9, during an audience with seminarians and priests of the Ukrainian Pontifical College of Saint Josaphat in Rome, the pontiff related how Bishop Czmil had taught him to serve the liturgy in the Byzantine rite.
In communion with Rome since the 1596 Union of Brest, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church preserves its Eastern Orthodox traditions and rites. The Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, however, remains wary of the what it calls “Uniatism.” As late as February 2017, Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion described the practice as “a force that sows hostility and hatred” between East and West.
The Greek Catholic Church is the third-largest Ukrainian Church, with nearly 8% of the population, or five million faithful.