Ukraine: Support for a youth meeting organised by the Franciscans in the Marian shrine of Bilshivtsi
In order to mark the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI, the Latin-rite Catholic Church in Ukraine has planned a string of initiatives for strengthening the faith. Among these are pilgrimages, of course.
Archbishop Mieczyslaw Morkrzycki, the former private secretary to Pope John Paul II is today the archbishop of Lviv. During a visit this year to the international headquarters of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) he explained that there is a real need for such pilgrimages, since the Catholic faithful love to pray and sing and - as he emphasised - do not look on these pilgrimages as simply "adventure outings". He believes the whole year will be an opportunity for a deepening of the faith.
What is particularly important, he believes, is to strengthen the faith of the young. For after the long years of atheistic communism many young people are still disoriented. Many seek help in fortune tellers or astrology, he remarked. Yet at the same time it is evident that they are searching for something. "The people of the East are by nature religious. Whenever they pass a church, they cross themselves. But many have not come to a deeper knowledge of the truths of the faith", Archbishop Mokrzycki explained. The good news however is that many young people, including especially students, take part in Church gatherings because "they want to put their lives on a proper footing, to recognise God's presence in their lives and find inner peace".
In order precisely to help these young people to put their lives on a good footing and discern God's presence in their lives, the Franciscans have for the past 10 years already been organising a youth meeting once a year at the Marian shrine of Bilshivtsi. This shrine, with its miraculous image of Our Lady, was desecrated during Soviet times, but today it is once again a place of pilgrimage.
(A recent Ecumenical Youth Meeting held in Bilshivtsi)
This year’s youth meeting is devoted to the subject of the Eucharist. The programme includes prayer, catechesis and Holy Mass, but at the same time also theatre performances, films and an opportunity to spend a happy and sociable time together. Everyone is invited - not just young people who are already Catholics.
At the conclusion of the 50th World Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June this year, Pope Benedict declared in his video message, "The Eucharist is the worship of the whole Church, but it also requires the full engagement of each individual Christian in the Church's mission. It contains a call to be the holy people of God, but also one to individual holiness. It is to be celebrated with great joy and simplicity, but also as worthily and reverently as possible. It invites us to repent of our sins, but also to forgive our brothers and sisters. It binds us together in the Spirit, but it also calls us, in the same Spirit, to bring the good news of salvation to others."
It is precisely so that the Franciscans can bring the young people this "good news" that ACN is supporting their project with $3,500.
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