From July 11 to 17, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, paid an official visit to Ukraine at the invitation of His Beatitude Sviatoslav. Under the visit, he went to Kyiv, Kharkiv, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv, and took part in the annual All-Ukrainian pilgrimage to Zarvanytsia.
The honored guest not only participated in ceremonial services, meetings with believers and people affected by the military operations in eastern Ukraine were also an important component of his visit. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri delivered words of encouragement and blessings from His Holiness Pope Francis to all men of good will, especially to those who make every effort to restore peace in Ukraine.
For this reason Caritas centers in cities visited by Cardinal Santi became important items in the program of the visit. On July 12, highly-respectable guests arrived at Kharkiv, where they visited Caritas local center. The Apostolic Nuncio of Ukraine Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti and Exarch of Kharkiv Bishop Vasyl accompanied Leonardo Sandri and the Head of the UGCC His Beatitude Sviatoslav. Honored guests received an opportunity to familiarize with organization’s activities, meet IDPs, people affected by military operations in eastern Ukraine and organization’s staff. Bishop Vasyl gave a brief outline of the community service of the exarchate, director of Caritas Kharkiv Fr. Serhiy Koval presented activities of the fund. After that guests and the staff joined a vigorous debate. One of the best parts was communication with Caritas youngest wards. They told with the child’s frankness about things they do, events they take part in and how Caritas supports them. The majority of wards under Caritas care are internally displaced people, who lost their homes as a result of military conflict in the east. Today, Caritas is their hope, which gives them a chance for a better future and faith in justice renewal.
The following day, highly-respectable guests paid a visit to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, where they also attended Caritas local centers. Presents waited for the guests in Caritas Kramatorsk. The youngest wards presented their drawings as a remembrance of their city, and visitors studied activities run in the region. Father Vasyl Ivaniuk Director of Caritas Kramatorsk told about ongoing activities. At present, 14 aid projects are being implemented. Activities are carried out in seven districts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, special attention is paid to the buffer zone.
“I do appreciate what you are doing and I thank you for being a real proof of God’s love. I will definitely tell the Most Holy Father all I have seen here. I am impressed how amid the horrors of the war, anger, hatred and ruins you stay here and live in God’s love”, Cardinal Sandi told at the end of his visit to Caritas.
Caritas Sloviansk Social center was the next stop. “Sloviansk is the first city, which faced the horrors of the war. Nevertheless, it is also the first city where hope revived. This is a place where the piece will spread from all over Ukraine”, the honored guest told during his sermon in Caritas chapel. After that the Cardinal talked with children who attend Caritas local center. Ingenious kids courageously asked the respectful guest to take them in his arms; elder wards presented self-made drawings and postcards, and asked about his vision of current Ukraine.
The visit was concluded with the annual All-Ukrainian pilgrimage to the Marian Spiritual Center in Zarvanytsia, where Cardinal Leonardo Sandri addressed to the youth. “What I have seen in your country during these days touched my heart. Divine services, visits and meetings that I had in the east of Ukraine, tired and tested by military actions which made flee a huge number of your brothers and sisters. I think about those internally displaced persons who set to work and with the help of Caritas started to ease the pain and grief of other people in the similar situation. I will not forget the pain and hope, witnessed by some of Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic priests. During the Soviet communism, some of them were imprisoned and deported. Over recent war operations, which sprinkled the blood over your land, they tried to save as many people in danger as possible”.