The RISU news service quoted Ukrainian Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk on March 14 as welcoming the election of Pope Francis. "I would first like to say that the newly elected Pope Francis was mentored by one of our priests, Stepan Chmil, who is now buried in the basilica of St. Sophia in Rome. Today’s Pope, during his time as a student of the Salesian school, awoke many hours before his classmates to concelebrate at our Divine Liturgy with Fr. Stepan. He knows our Tradition very well, as well as our Liturgy."
"The last time I had an opportunity to see him was as I was preparing to leave Argentina for Ukraine. I asked him to bear witness to the process of beatifying Fr. Stepan Chmil, to which, he gladly agreed. The Holy Father very well knows not only of our Church, but also our liturgy, our rites, and our spirituality."
It was as the Latin rite Archbishop of Buenos Aires, that Cardinal Bergoglio also served as the Ordinary of all Eastern Rite Catholics - Ruthenian, Armenian, Ukrainian and Maronite, for example - since they have no shepherd in the South American country of their own. Patriarch Sviatoslav, continued, "Apart from this, Pope Francis, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, was assigned as ordinary for Eastern Catholics, specifically those who at the time did not have members of their own hierarchy. Our Eparchy in Argentina is, let’s say, suffragan to the Archbishop’s seat of Buenos Aires. In this way, Cardinal Bergoglio, always took care of our Church in Argentina; and as a young bishop, I took my first steps in episcopal ministry under his watchful eyes and help. Because of this, I am positive that the Holy Father will be a great help to our Church, and I expect that great things await our Church with this Pope."
Eastern Rite Catholics have welcomed the election of Pope Francis since he is believed to fully understand and appreciate the charism of their particular spirituality. The various Eastern rites follow the traditions and liturgy set down by the original patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem and Constantinople. Ruthenian and Ukrainian Catholics of the Eastern rite use the Byzantine ritual of the Divine Liturgy or Mass.
The patriarch said of Pope Francis, who is already heralded for his obvious simplicity and humility, "In regards to the personality of the new Holy Father - he is an incredibly modest person. For example, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he never relied on his own automobile, rather relying on public transportation, always in simple clothing. He mostly stands out in his enormous care for the less-fortunate, visiting the most impoverished neighborhoods. He is a person, I would say, of great pastoral foundation."
"As a Jesuit, Pope Francis is an incredibly deep intellectual. I can attest to the fact that his homilies are quite short, sometimes no longer than five or six sentences, but he manages to fill them with such deep meaning, always leaving the faithful in silent contemplation upwards of five-to-seven minutes," said the patriarch as quoted by RISU.
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