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Pope and Ukrainian youth cry together

Fr. Roman Demush of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church at World Youth day 2013 with his wife and child.

Cyprien Viet I Aleteia

Fr. Roman Demush, second-in-charge of youth ministry for the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church, at World Youth Day 2013 (Lisbon) with his wife and child.

Cyprien Viet - published on 08/04/23

On the morning of Thursday, August 3, Pope Francis received 15 young Ukrainians at the Nunciature in Lisbon.

Fr. Roman Demush, second-in-charge for youth ministry in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, tells Aleteia how moved he was by the moment of consolation experienced by the young Ukrainians whom Pope Francis met this Thursday in Lisbon.

Aleteia: Did this “intimate” meeting with the Pope give the WYD a special dimension for young Ukrainians?

Fr. Roman Demush: Being here is very important for us Ukrainians. It allows us to make visible the cry of our martyred people. And the meeting with the Holy Father was a providential opportunity. The young people were able to tell him about their experiences, their stories of living through this war. Some had fought, others had lost loved ones… The Pope listened to them with great attention.

There were many tears during the exchange. The Pope and the young people stopped several times to cry together, and finally to pray together. This enabled us to bear witness to the suffering Christ in the experience of our people.

As a gift for the Holy Father, the young people brought grain, bread, and water. We told him that today we can die not only from Russian bombs, but also from hunger, as our silos are being bombed. The Pope shared the bread and blessed water with us, and it was a beautiful moment of sharing.

How many young Ukrainians came to the WYD in Lisbon?

Fr. Demush: Over 500 young Ukrainians came to WYD, which is providential. More than 300 of them are from Ukraine itself, and another 200 come from the diaspora: from Poland, France, Italy, etc… 

Are these World Youth Days a source of consolation and comfort for these young people traumatized by war?

Fr. Demush: Yes, because it’s an opportunity for encounter, first and foremost with Christ living in our midst. It’s also a chance for Ukrainians to meet each other, after many of them had to leave their homes and their country. And it’s also an opportunity to meet young people from all over the world, to experience faith together.

When the young people take photos with us, they always tell us that they are praying for us.

Since the start of the Russian offensive, Ukrainians have often felt misunderstood. Are these World Youth Days helping young people in other countries to understand this war?

Fr. Demush: The young Ukrainians spoke clearly to the other young people, but also to the Pope, about the Russian aggressor who is attacking our homes and our cities, who is killing us. The young people asked the Pope to call the evil by its name. And we get a lot of support and encouragement from young people in other countries. When they take photos with us, they always tell us they’re praying for us. That’s a very important support for us. 

Is prayer an essential “spiritual weapon” in a context of war?

Fr. Demush: Faith is a weapon that enables us to resist in these times by looking to God. Today, the young people explained to the Pope that they haven’t lost their faith. On the contrary, even in the midst of all these horrors, some have rediscovered it.

Tags:
Pope FrancisUkraineWorld Youth Day
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