“Pastoral Care Amidst Grief and Sorrow”: Head of the UGCC on spiritual experience during the war

February 28, 2024, 21:00 112

For two years now, Ukraine has been living in a full-scale war unleashed by Russia. This period has dramatically changed the lives of its people and, notably, the life of His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. In an interview with the Catholic publication Aleteia, he discussed his spiritual experience during the war and how two years of full-scale invasion have impacted him, his ministry, and the lives of Ukrainians overall.

“Pastoral Care Amidst Grief and Sorrow”: Head of the UGCC on spiritual experience during the war
I am wounded. I feel a surge of hyperactivity every time Russian missiles fly over my residemce.

The Head of the Church shared that even before the Russian invasion, he had never lived an easy life because he constantly devoted himself to people. However, since the outbreak of the war, His Beatitude Sviatoslav’s activity, he said, has increased tenfold.

“I always strive to sacrifice myself for my people. I aim to inspire my people, especially in dangerous situations like during the early months of the war in Kyiv when we were surrounded. Yet, I’ve consistently asked myself: ‘Lord, where are You in these circumstances?’ I searched for a sign of God’s presence among us, drawing inspiration from His presence. As a bishop and believer, I endeavor to guide others towards God’s presence among us. Such is my life today,” he admitted.

I see how pivotal the presence of priests and bishops among suffering people is. I would call it the “mystery of presence.”

Moreover, the Head of the UGCC said that over the past two years, the number of his travels and pastoral visits has significantly increased.

“Even if you can’t do the most for those people, even if your hands are empty, it is important to be with them, to be present. And this meeting unveils what we carry in our hearts,” said the Primate. “When there is a war, all kinds of masks are removed. Many people reveal their true face, true personality, and hidden intentions of their hearts. And yes, I am a witness to this phenomenon.”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav explained that being a bishop in time of war means, first of all, being a missionary of God’s word, bringing God’s grace, and performing the Holy Sacraments: “I am a witness to the extraordinary power of God’s Word, which heals, creates new environments, illuminates new perspectives, helps people find God’s presence in their lives, increases their resilience, and inspires them.”

In Ukraine today, we can observe a certain conversion, questioning the meaning of our suffering, which we may discover by listening to God’s word. Many people seek the Sacraments of the Church amid all the grief and horror they have experienced. According to the Patriarch, pastoral care today can also be called “pastoral care amidst grief and sorrow” or “pastoral care of grieving.”

“In many cases, you can’t say anything. You can only be present, cry with these people, and share their pain. This pain affects you. Because by sharing, you accept their pain into your heart. And you need to be careful and know what to do with this overwhelming pain in your heart,” said His Beatitude Sviatoslav.

Hope comes only through our faith. Only those who believe in God have hope.

In such instances, the Head of the UGCC discovers the most important thing in the pastoral way of grief — the importance of prayer, as well as hope and love: “prayer is not a simple ritual or ceremony. Prayer is a power that flows through your heart. Prayer is communication with God. Prayer is what transforms you and the reality around you. And we are witnessing people praying when bombs are falling on their heads.”

Therefore, only those who pray have hope. His Beatitude Sviatoslav assured that hope can grow and be fulfilled in the third important Christian virtue — love. Hope always leads to love. And love is the most incredible power to transform and heal our wounds.

The UGCC Department for Information

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