Cardinal O'Brien visits Ukraine
Cardinal Keith O Brien will visit the Ukraine from Saturday 25 June 2005, for six days, returning to Scotland on Thursday 30 June 2005.
He goes at the invitation of Bishop Markijan Trofimiak, the Bishop of Lutsk, Ukraine. On the first full day of his visit, he will celebrate Mass at St Alexander s Cathedral in Kiev and his visit will conclude by celebrating High Mass in the Cathedral dedicated to Ss Peter and Paul in Lutsk. On the other days, the Cardinal will visit local parish communities and attend a concert in his honour on the evening of Tuesday 28 June 2005 in Lutsk.
The visit commemorates the 4th anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Ukraine. The Cardinal will speak of the help given by the Holy Father to the Ukrainian people. The peoples of the Ukraine consider that the Orange Revolution would have been impossible without this particular visit of Pope John Paul II.
The Cardinal will also take this opportunity to emphasise the standards with regard to marriage and family life which should be observed, not only in the Ukraine, but throughout the world. He will also support the united front of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in the Ukraine in opposing Government plans in the Ukraine whereby religion would be removed from the teaching of schools in the Ukraine and replaced by compulsory ethics classes, even in primary schools. He quotes the Church s statement that: The time has come for independent Ukraine to break with totalitarian Soviet tradition in which parents and children are Christian at home but must be atheists or indifferent to Christianity at school.
The visit also continues during the Year of the Eucharist when the Ukrainian peoples are thinking of resurrection and new life brought about by Christ in the Eucharist.
Cardinal O Brien has had longstanding links with the Ukrainian people. When he was an altar server in St Columba s Parish, Edinburgh, as a young boy and then man, he vividly remembers the Ukrainian peoples in exile celebrating Mass in St Columba s after the normal Sunday Masses for parishioners “ until they managed to purchase their own church within the city of Edinburgh.
The full text of the Cardinal's homily in St Alexander's Cathedral in Kiev is shown below.
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PASTORAL VISIT OF CARDINAL KEITH PATRICK O BRIEN
TO THE UKRAINE
CELEBRATION OF THE FEAST OF SS PETER AND ST PAUL AND FOURTH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS OF VISIT OF POPE JOHN PAUL II TO THE UKRAINE
CATHEDRAL OF ST ALEXANDER, KIEV, UKRAINE
SUNDAY 26 JUNE 2005
CATHEDRAL OF SS PETER AND PAUL, LUTSK, UKRAINE
WEDNESDAY 29 JUNE 2005
It is indeed a very great pleasure for me being here with you to celebrate this Mass in St Alexander s Cathedral, Kiev before celebrating Mass on the feast of SS Peter and Paul in the Cathedral of Ss Peter and Paul in Lutsk.
As a boy and as a young man I never ever thought that I would see this day “ I myself now a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church celebrating Mass in Cathedrals of the Church in the Ukraine, with the Ukraine being a free country.
As a boy in Edinburgh, Scotland I quite literally grew up with the Ukrainian peoples in exile. The Ukrainian peoples shared our church dedicated to St Columba one of the first Christian missionaries to Scotland some 1400 years ago. The solemn Ukrainian liturgies used to be sung on Sundays and on other days after the principal Mass of the Roman Catholic Community. I got to know and love this liturgy as an altar boy and then as a young priest. Later as Metropolitan Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh and now as a Cardinal in our Roman Catholic Church my affection for the peoples of the Ukraine has increased with the years. I had previously been asked to visit the Ukraine during its years of suffering; I now rejoice to be with you all at the time of your freedom.
Purpose of Visit:
You may know that the principal purpose of my visit is to thank Our Lord, along with you, for the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Ukraine, which took place some 4 years ago.
Obviously, the visit of the Holy Father was very helpful for the Ukrainian people “ as his other visits behind what was then the Iron Curtain were so fruitful for many suffering peoples. Like nobody else, Pope John Paul II was able to give the peoples of the Ukraine hope and strength. One might say that the Orange Revolution would have been impossible without the visit of Pope John Paul II “ which was a turning point in the history of the Ukraine with so many peaceful changes taking place.
We think also during this particular year of the Eucharist, the source of our strength, as it has been the source of the strength of the peoples of the Ukraine throughout their years of suffering and persecution. Now you are experiencing resurrection and new life. We all pray that that resurrection and new life may indeed lead to an ever closer union of you all with the life of Jesus Christ, strengthened through that life in the Eucharist.
However, a further purpose of my visit to you is quite simply to be with you as a priest wants to be with his people, to greet you in love, and to celebrate the liturgy with you and for you.
I was very happy to meet your own Bishop, Bishop Marian when we were together at a meeting of the Conference of the Leaders of European Bishops Conferences in Leeds, England last year. Then initially an invitation was extended to me. That invitation was renewed on the steps of St Peter s Basilica when we met in Rome at the first general audience given by Pope Benedict XV1 after his election as our new Holy Father.
Bonds of friendship grew up between us although neither of us speaks the language of the other. However, the language of Jesus Christ is but one language “ the language of love. And I am very happy to share that love here with you all on this feast day.
Unity of goals of two Popes:
I remind you first of all on this occasion of the similarity of the goals of our previous saintly Holy Father Pope John Paul II and our present happily reigning Pope, Pope Benedict XVI.
Both emphasis in their teachings the dignity of the individual person and also emphasise the centrality which Jesus Christ should have in our lives. They have both emphasised our necessity to work ever harder to bring Christ back again into Europe. On the Ad Limina visit which the Bishops of Scotland paid to Pope John Paul II in 2003 the Pope reminded us of the standards which should be ours namely the standards of Jesus Christ “ and at that
time questioned whether or not Scotland was indeed a Christian country or had rather degenerated into being a secular state.
When we think back those few months to the election of Pope Benedict XVI, I vividly remember him saying to the Cardinals in Conclave the reasons why he was choosing the name Benedict. Among three reasons he emphasised that Benedict was the Patron Saint of Europe and it would be part of his endeavours to bring back Christianity into the Continent of Europe.
I put before you two ways in which I think as members of the lay faithful you, in a very special way, can bring Christ back into the centre of Europe and into the centre of your country: I ask you to consider marriage and family life; and I ask you to consider the education of your children.
Marriage and Family Life:
I know that here in the Ukraine as also in Scotland many people have worries about marriage and family life at present. We know the present state of our society and we are also aware of tragedies affecting our own families although many of our young people have been baptized and brought up in the Catholic Christian faith. However, many of our young people are not asking God to enter their union in the sacrament of matrimony but are rather living together. Often children were not welcomed as a gift from Almighty God. Tragically even in Catholic marriages the evil of abortion is perpetrated when babies in the womb are killed.
We are all aware that in our countries marriages break up at this present time, separations and even civil divorces take place, and the bond of marriage is broken.
We must do everything possible in our own families, in our parishes and in our countries to ensure the standards which were handed on to us in past years are still the standards being observed today.
Consequently I say to you that our young people must be prepared well for the sacrament of matrimony in their homes, in their parishes and by the Church and by the State in whatever way possible; children must be regarded as a gift from Almighty God in the sacrament of matrimony and must be brought up to know and to love and serve God as their Father in Heaven; There must be ongoing care for all in the family, for young married couples, for those more mature in age, and both care and respect for the elderly, the housebound and the sick.
Perhaps in times of persecution families were bound evermore closely together in love. Now that you are free from external persecutions in the Ukraine you must ensure that there are no other persecutions at place in the world affecting you all here in the Ukraine breaking up the high standards which you have always had for marriage and family life.
Education of Children:
The second point which I wish to stress with you on this feast day is the way in which we must care for the education of our children.
Yes we all regard children as a gift from Almighty God. As a very precious gift we must ensure that we form our children in the likeness of Almighty God and educate them in ways in which they will be strong in our faith.
In Scotland we are intensely grateful that we have a strong system of Catholic schools. From time to time there are attempts that these schools be abolished and our young people all attend non-denominational schools. However, peoples of goodwill in our country resist strongly any attempts to destroy our Catholic schools.
I know that there are Government plans here in the Ukraine to do similar things. There is an attempt to replace school religion with compulsory ethics classes even in primary schools “ and this has met with a united front of opposition from Catholic and Orthodox Churches. There have been appeals to President Yushchenko and your Premier Tymoshenko to reverse this Policy. It has been stated by the Churches that: The course proposed by the Education and Science Ministry suggest freedom of conscience as being ignored and the statement goes on to say: The time has come for independent Ukraine to break with totalitarian Soviet tradition, in which parents and children are Christian at home, but must be atheist or indifferent to Christianity at school .
I give my wholehearted support to the Policy of your Catholic Church in collaboration with the Orthodox Church here in the Ukraine.
Your beloved young children must not only be Christians at home they must be Christians at school, they must be Christians throughout their lives. There is no distinction at all as to what must be taught in the schools of this country “ it must not simply be a compulsory ethics course or any attempt to hand on atheistic communism “ teaching and formation of the Christian faith must continue on the foundations laid in Catholic homes!
I began my words by speaking of the unity seen in the teachings of both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. Throughout the world wherever there are Catholics of goodwill we too must be unified in our faith and unified in the ways in which we hand on our faith while allowing of course for differences of culture within our countries. But I remind you of that basic teaching of our recent Popes: The importance of the individual and the centrality of Jesus Christ.
In the Ukraine and in Scotland we do recognise the uniqueness of each and every individual made in the image and likeness of Almighty God with an eventual destiny of an eternity with God in Heaven. We must repeatedly remind our young people of our Christian heritage.
We must teach them the ways of Jesus Christ “ the ways of love. We must help them in everyway by our word and example.
May those two great leaders of our Church “ St Peter “ our Leader in the faith; and St Paul the fearless preacher of our faith “ continue to help and inspire us as we grow ever closer to Jesus Christ in this life as a preparation for our final union with him for ever in Heaven.