Italy - Pope Francis pays tribute to Mons. Stepan Czmil, SDB

29 January 2018

(ANS - Rome) - On Sunday afternoon, January 28, Pope Francis visited the Basilica of Santa Sophia, center of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics in Rome. He was the third Pontiff to visit the Basilica; Paul VI visited in 1969, John Paul II in 1984. In Pope Francis' address to the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic community, he recalled the history of the Catholic community in Ukraine and spoke of three great figures: cardinals Josyp Slipyj and Liubomyr Husar and Salesian bishop Stepan Czmil - whom he knew personally - buried in the basilica's crypt.

"A person who has done me so much good," said Pope Francis speaking of Mons Czmil. "Indelible in me is the memory of when, as a youngster, I was twelve years old, I attended his masses; he taught me to serve mass, to read the alphabet, to answer the various parts ...; I learned from him, in this service at mass he did three times a week, the beauty of your liturgy; from his stories the living testimony of how much faith has been tried and forged in the midst of the terrible atheistic persecutions of the last century. I am very grateful to him and to your many 'heroes of faith': those who, like Jesus, sowed in the way of the cross, generating a fruitful harvest. Because the true Christian victory is always in the sign of the cross, our banner of hope."

Speaking again of mgr. Czmil and cardinals Slipyj and Husar, the Holy Father added: "Witnesses to the past have been open to the future of God and therefore give hope to the present. Many of you may have had the grace to know them ... Remember the fathers and mothers in the faith, because they are the foundations that support us: those who have taught us the Gospel with their lives still orient us and accompany us on our journey."

Subsequently, Pope Francis went to the crypt of the Basilica and stood for a few minutes in silent prayer before the remains of Msgr. Czmil, who educated young Bergoglio in the Eastern rite when he was a missionary in Argentina, in 1948.
Representing the Rector Major was Fr Tadeusz Rozmus, Regional Councilor for Central and Northern Europe, together with Fr Karol Manik, Provincial of the Special Circumscription of Ukraine.

Video of the Pope's visit.


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