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Pope Francis: at Santa Sofia, Ukrainians, “I am close to you” To carers: “You are precious” “herald of faith in many Italian families”

“I am here to tell you that I am close to you: close with my heart, close with my prayer, and close when I celebrate the Eucharist. There, I beg the Prince of Peace to silence the weapons. I also ask Him that you no longer have to make huge sacrifices to provide for your loved ones”. This is how Pope Francis greeted the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic community who packed the Basilica of Santa Sofia in Rome yesterday afternoon. In his speech, delivered mostly off the cuff after the opening address by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč, Pope Francis addressed the Ukrainian mothers and grandmothers who “have passed on their faith, with courage” and praised the carers: “You are precious, you are heralds of God in many Italian families, in the best possible way, when in your service, you take care of people with a caring and unobtrusive presence. This is important: an unobtrusive presence, which is a witness… which makes one say: ‘This woman is good…’; and the faith is born and is passed on”. “I invite you to see your work, which is often hard and not very rewarding, not just as a job but as a mission”, the Pope continued: “You are the reference points in the lives of so many elderly people, the sisters who make them feel they are not alone. You bring God’s consolation and tenderness to those who, in life, prepare themselves for the encounter with Him. It is a great ministry of proximity and closeness, which is pleasing to God, and I thank you for that. And those of you who work as carers for the elderly, you see that they pass away, and perhaps you forget them, because another one comes after them, and then another one, and so on. Yes, remember their names… It will be them who will open you the door, up there, it will be them”. At the beginning of his address, the Pope mentioned three important figures for the community and for himself: Card. Slipyj, who wanted and built the Basilica of Santa Sofia; Bishop Chmil, “a person who has done me much good”, the Pope said, explaining that when he was a boy, in Argentina, he learned from him “to serve at Mass, to read your alphabet”. “From him – he said – I learned the beauty of your liturgy, from his stories, the living testimony of how faith has been tested and forged in the midst of the terrible atheistic persecutions of the last century”. The third person recalled by Pope Francis was Card. Husar, a spiritual “guide and an elder brother for so many people”.

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