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Home » Fra Elia’s second mission to Ukraine – Jun 2023

Fra Elia’s second mission to Ukraine – Jun 2023

    On Friday, June 16, after a brief meeting with the Chancellor of the Curia in Rzeszów and a stop at a religious goods store, in the early afternoon hours, about thirty kilometers from the Ukrainian border, we met Father Orestes, who together with the driver came to pick us up to take us to Lviv.

    As we crossed the border, we immediately realized that we had entered a country at war because of the many military personnel we encountered and the checkpoints that occasionally crossed along the road.
    Without taking into account the different Protestant groups, there are four sister Christian churches in Ukraine: the Orthodox Church loyal to the Moscow Patriarchate, the Ukrainian autocephalous (i.e., independent) Orthodox Church, which reports to the Kiev Patriarchate, the Greek Catholic Church, so called because although it follows the Orthodox liturgy, it recognizes the authority of the Roman Pontiff, and finally the Latin Church, i.e., Roman Catholics like us in Italy.

    Back in 2017 we were guests of the Greek Catholic Parish of the Resurrection, and upon our arrival we find many familiar faces, starting with the parish priest, Fr. Sergius.

    After settling down in the rooms, as we were instructed, we had dinner together with some of the priests of the parish, and the conversation inevitably fell on the war, out of curiosity to know Fra Elia’s thoughts on the subject and especially to get some indication from him about the conclusion of hostilities. Having anticipated being questioned on these issues, after much prayer and reflection, Fra Elia summarized his thoughts in this way, “If you want peace, lay down your arms!” a phrase that well sums up the Gospel’s dictate of love to one’s enemies (cf. Mt. 5:44) and manifests the will and courage to seek only in God one’s refuge and defense, to disarm one’s enemies with the power of divine love. A point of view that leaves our interlocutors dumbfounded and without any argument to counter it, except the reason of self-defense in response to the aggression suffered.

    On Saturday morning, after the first Mass at 9 a.m., we go to visit Metropolitan Igor, who invited us to this new mission and whom we have already met in 2017. Afterwards we go to the military hospital, where Fra Elia visits all the inpatients in the surgical ward, almost all of whom are amputees in the lower or upper limbs, leaving each one a rosary, along with his prayer and blessing, to kindle the light of hope in the hearts of these men, humbled in their bodies forever by the wounds of war.

    Leaving the hospital, we go to the so-called “Cemetery of Heroes”, where hundreds of young men between the ages of twenty and forty who died in battle are buried, again for a prayer stop. There is time for a walk around the city, which apparently moves in normalcy, as if there were no war. After lunch at the restaurant, we return to the parish, which is located in a very peripheral area to the city center, where we are at this time.
    Sunday is an endless celebration of Holy Masses, one after another, until three o’clock in the afternoon, when we finally stop for lunch. At the end of each celebration, there is space for my brief presentation of Fra Elia and his catechesis and blessing of those present with holy water.

    Monday morning Fra Elia listens to a group of people gathered by the priests in a room under the church. However, not having activated a filter to give preference to the truly sick, so many people eventually sneak in that the meeting ends at 4 p.m., to rush to the restaurant where a lunch of thanksgiving and farewell to Fra Elia is prepared. It is also an opportunity to talk about a future mission to Lviv, possibly still in June.
    Many people, who met with Fra Elia in 2017, gave testimony to the priests of the physical and spiritual benefits received, and some even reported special graces these days as well.

    We leave Ukraine, taking with us so many images of suffering, of fear, but also of great faith in the Lord, to free this people from their sufferings, certain that we will return again, and this time in the peace of God and men.

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