Pope Francis’ visit to the Ukrainian Catholic Basilica of Santa Sophia in Rome combined elements of his parish visits with elements of his visits to centres for migrants and refugees.
While the basilica is a fully functioning parish, most of its members are migrant women working in Rome and sending money home to their families in Ukraine.
In his speech to the community gathered at Santa Sophia on 28th January, Pope Francis offered his own reflection on “The Vibrant Parish: a Place to Encounter the Living Christ,” which is the theme of a multiyear renewal effort in Ukrainian Catholic parishes around the world.
“A vibrant parish is a place to encounter the living Christ,” he said. “I hope that you always will come here for the bread for your daily journey, the consolation of your hearts, the healing of your wounds.”
A vibrant parish, he said, also is the place to pass on the faith to the younger generations.
“Young people need to perceive this: that the Church is not a museum, that the Church is not a tomb,” the pope added. They need to see that “the Church is alive, that the Church gives life and that God is Jesus Christ, the living Christ, in the midst of the Church.”
But Pope Francis also spoke about the loneliness of being a migrant, the hard work and low pay many Ukrainian women receive in caring for children or the elderly in Italy and, particularly, the worry and concern over the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine.
Picture: Pope Francis and Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, release doves at the end of the pope’s meeting with the Ukrainian Catholic community at the Basilica of Santa Sophia in Rome on 28th January. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters).