Major archbishop hopes Pope Francis will visit Kyiv ‘as soon as possible’

Pope Francis and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Pope Francis and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk. | Mazur/Олександр Гаврик via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

A Ukrainian Catholic leader has said that he hopes Pope Francis will visit Kyiv “as soon as possible.”

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk was responding to the pope’s comments on Sunday during an in-flight press conference at the end of his trip to Malta.

“We would like him to come to Ukraine as soon as possible,” the Kyiv-based leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said.

The pope confirmed to a journalist at the start of his Malta visit on April 2 that a trip to the Ukrainian capital was “on the table.”

He confirmed his willingness to visit the war-torn country at the press conference on April 3, but he said that he did not know “if it will be useful and I should do it.”

According to a statement released by the Secretariat of the Major Archbishop in Rome on April 4, Shevchuk said that the local Catholic Church and government officials were “working to ensure that the Holy Father’s visit to Ukraine takes place.”

Earlier this month, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Vatican’s representative in Ukraine, told EWTN that Pope Francis was “evaluating” the trip.

But he said that the danger associated with holding public gatherings in Ukraine following the full-scale Russian invasion made the visit unlikely.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy personally invited the pope to visit during a phone conversation on March 22.

In a video message, he said: “I invited him to visit our country at this most crucial time. I believe that we will be able to organize this important visit, which will definitely support each of us, every Ukrainian.”

Ukraine, the second-largest country in Europe by area after Russia, is predominantly Eastern Orthodox. But it has a Catholic minority composed of members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, as well as smaller numbers of Latin Rite Catholics, Ruthenian Catholics, and Armenian Catholics.

Major Archbishop Shevchuk said that the pope’s visit “during the war could be a powerful gesture for peace.”

“We are waiting for him with sincerity,” he added.

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