“In you, I see your Churches and wish, first of all, to assure you of my closeness and prayers for the flocks that the Lord Jesus entrusted to each one of you,” – with these words Pope Francis greeted the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of Eastern Catholic Churches during a special audience focused on the state of these Churches. In a meeting, held on Thursday, November 21, 2013, in the Apostolic Palace, His Beatitude Sviatoslav (Shevchuk) also participated. The Holy Father emphasized that this was the first time that he had a chance to have such a meeting with the Fathers and Heads of the Eastern Catholic Churches and hoped that the Holy Spirit “would prompt us on what we should learn and what we should realize in order to serve the Lord God, His Church, and all mankind.”

Patriarch Sviatoslav with Pope Francis.

Patriarch Sviatoslav with Pope Francis.

The Holy Father remembered the words of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who in his Apostolic Precept «Ecclesia in Medio Oriente» described the figure of the Head of a Church: “You,” he said, “are watchful stewards of the communion and the servants of church unity, which finds its completeness “in the unwavering unity with the Bishop of Rome,” rooted in ecclesiastica communio (ecclesiastical communion), received after election. And the inclusion through communion to the Body of Christ should enhance the consciousness of the obligation “to strengthen unity and solidarity.”

Then the Universal Hierarch presented the criteria of what is necessary so that the “testimony would be according to faith.” For this, it is important to always seek “righteousness, piety, faith, love, patience, kindness.” This requires “a moderate life style according to the example of Christ,” as well as “a persistent earnestness and brotherly and fatherly kind love,” which is expected from the Church heads by bishops, clergy, and faithful, especially those who live in circumstances of social exclusion.

“Above all, I mean,” said the Holy Father, “our priests who need understanding and support, also on the personal side. They have the right to receive our good example in things which concern God and every other Church activity. We are expected to be transparent in our dealings with wealth and a caring attention to each concern. And all this – in the most convincing means of implementing this synodality that is the trade mark of the Eastern Churches.” At the end, the Pope wished himself, the Patriarchs and the Main Archbishops , God’s help and the care of the Virgin Mary in order to fulfill this vocation, asking also for prayers for him.

Then each of the Heads of the Eastern Churches presented the state of his church community.

Photo from Radio Vatican