“Pope’s hand touched personally each of us,” the Catholics of Donetsk and Luhansk

On December 16-18, Apostolic Nuncio in Ukraine Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti was on a pastoral visit to the Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic communities of Donetsk and Luhansk. As previously, the main mission of Pope Francis’ representative was to convey to the Ukrainian Catholics living in this distressed region the words of consolation and inspiration of the Apostolic See, which closely follows the fate of all people affected by war in eastern Ukraine.
On Saturday, December 17, Archbishop Gugerotti led the mass in the Roman Catholic parish of St. Joseph in Donetsk, which comprises around 100 parishioners. The Vatican Ambassador’s visit to Donetsk coincided with the birthday of Pope Francis. Therefore, the Catholics of Donetsk availed themselves of this opportunity to convey greetings to the Holy Father through his representative in Ukraine. In his sermon, His Excellency spoke of the coming Christmas, which gives hope to everyone.

Speaking to the congregation, Nuncio called them to hear, when sitting at the Vigil dinner, that someone is knocking on their door. This “someone” was to be Pope Francis, who holds dearly in his heart and prayers all the people aggrieved by war. Hear the words of the Pope, feel his love, see him point to the light, which is Christ, and never lose hope – this was the guidance given by Apostolic Nuncio to the faithful of Donetsk.

“We sincerely thank all the parishioners! Papal Nuncio Claudio conveyed us the greeting and blessing from Pope Francis on the occasion of the Nativity of Jesus Christ. The powerful words of his sermon inspired and reassured us, and gave us hope for peace. We had a feeling that God took us in his arms and comforted us. We could physically feel the Divine mercy. We also had the opportunity to convey our heartfelt congratulations to Pope Francis on his anniversary,” wrote the parishioners after the common prayer and meeting with the Ambassador of the Vatican.

This is the second visit of the Ambassador of the Holy See in Donetsk during this year. The day before, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti visited the city in March 2016 and celebrated Easter together with the local Catholic community.

In Luhansk, the Apostolic Nuncio visited the Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic parish. The visit ended with a joint Sunday Mass in the Parish of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary that was held in the morning of December 18. All the Catholics of the city, which belong to two communities of different rites, participated in the worship.

Concelebrating to Archbishop Gugerotti was Jan Sobilo, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine and Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic priests residing in Luhansk.

“Today, we have lived through the greatest event. It means that Pope Francis and all of the Church keep us in mind every day. It means that we are loved. Many people are concerned about us. Jesus loves us too, and we believe that only he can stop this war. The Nuncio greeted us on the coming Christmas, blessed personally all the congregation and said it was the hand of Pope that personally touched each of us. Every word of the Nuncio was permeated with so much love! Grace overflows over the edge. I want to share this joy with everyone,” the parishioners of Luhansk say, noting they will remember this day for the years to come.

The Apostolic Nuncio keeps the Holy Father updated on the developments in Ukraine and, in the first place, in the combat zone, on both sides of the disengagement line. Consequently, now he visits the cities of Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk regions especially frequently, trying to carefully attend to the needs of those affected by war. It is in this region that the majority of civic organizations, volunteers and parishes take part in the Vatican’s Initiative “The Pope For Ukraine” for people affected by war in eastern Ukraine. Through his representative in Ukraine, Pope Francis unfailingly keeps assuring Ukrainians of his daily prayer about the quickest end of war and reign of peace in the Ukrainian land.

Olena Kulygina, the press-center of the Initiative “The Pope For Ukraine”