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Archbishop Lauds Mentor, Pope Francis

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Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church and protégé of Pope Francis in Argentina, said the new pontiff’s ministry will be marked by “authenticity and simplicity.” Archbishop Shevchuk is pictured during a 2011 interview in Rome. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring) 

18 Mar 2013 – By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) — For the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, “authenticity and simplicity” characterize the man who mentored him as a young bishop: the newly elected Pope Francis.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said Pope Francis’ simplicity and commitment to a new form of evangelization was exemplified when he came out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time on 13 March and bowed as he asked people to pray for him and ask God to bless him.

“He spontaneously rejected the kingship of the papacy,” the archbishop said.

“This is the way of the very ancient church,” Archbishop Shevchuk said, and it is something still seen today in the Byzantine ordinations of priests and bishops. The candidate is first presented to the people who must proclaim him “axios,” or “worthy.”

The gesture, he said, was vintage Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

Some people were surprised when the pope said on 16 March that he wanted a church that was poor and was with the poor.

“I can assure you, that was not simply ‘PR.’ That is how he is — as a person, as a pastor, as a celebrant, as a bishop, as the pope,” the archbishop said.

The archbishop was present at many Masses in Argentina where then-Cardinal Bergoglio was the chief celebrant. His homilies “were always very short, but very sweet,” he said.

In fact, he said, at the solemn Mass celebrating Argentina’s 200th anniversary of independence in 2010, “he said just six sentences, but there was a silence in the cathedral for almost 10 minutes” when he finished, as people contemplated what he had said.

“As a celebrant, he tried to be really simple in his relationships with the people and with God. That is why, sometimes, he will break some protocols,” the archbishop said, particularly by sharing the sign of peace with as many people as he can reach.

“That way of creating simple, but authentic and profound relationships between God and people is a special gift of Cardinal Bergoglio — and today, Pope Francis.”

Archbishop Shevchuk, who was sent to Buenos Aires as an auxiliary bishop at age 38 and was named head of the Ukrainian diocese there before he was 40, said he expected his former mentor to be an ecumenical pope, a father and pastor guiding Catholics on moral issues and a priest who focuses on Christ when celebrating the liturgy.

“It wasn’t so easy for me, so I was looking for someone who could be my guide, someone I could ask for help” and someone to go to when there were problems, said Archbishop Shevchuk, who will be 43 in May. “I was so lucky to find that person in the person of the archbishop of Buenos Aires.”

The new pope knows the Byzantine liturgy and the Ukrainian Catholic Church from his youth, the archbishop said. As a student at a Salesian school in Buenos Aires, he would wake up early each morning and go to Divine Liturgy with Ukrainian Father Stepan Chmil, who is now deceased.





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Tags: Pope Francis Ecumenism Christian Unity Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk Ukrainian Catholic Church