Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainians offered the Divine Liturgy on 25 November with the special permission of Pope Francis at the altar of the Vatican Basilica. The Ukrainian Church is observing the 50th anniversary of the laying of the relics of Saint Josaphat, martyr for Church unity.
The praying of the Liturgy in Saint Peter’s is a terrific sign of diversity and unity of the Catholic Church. The Byzantine Church exists in Rome, Catholic and Orthodox. The beauty of the faith in all its specificities.
This week another group of Byzantine Catholics are meeting in Rome with their Patriarch and some bishops, that of the Melkites. A delegation from the USA just arrived in Rome today. The eternal city is being overrun with the Eastern Church.
Two notes: 1) it is a rare circumstance that a bishop other than the Bishop of Rome offer Mass on the altar of Saint Peter’s because it is a reserved altar. When John Paul was ailing we saw designated cardinals offering Mass at this altar. Recall that Major Basilicas belong to the Pope and have certain privileges; 2) In Church law and ecclesiastical custom (at the moment) the Ukrainian Church has a leader who does not officially carry the title of “Patriarch”; he holds the title of Major Archbishop —and there is no canonical difference in titles, but…— yet in a variety of places the Ukrainian faithful rightly use the term Patriarch as a few Vatican news agencies did today to relate the event. I hope that Sviatoslav will be granted the official use of the title of Patriarch, as he ought to have.
Saint Josaphat, pray for us.