The Ukrainian Catholic community has a particular affiliation with Pope Francis, elected on March 13. The new pontiff, who is from Buenos Aires, was once mentored by Ukrainian priest Stepan Chmil and also speaks the language.
Cardinal Huzar of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine was impressed when he met Francis eight years ago at the conclave that elected his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI:
“I had not met him before, did not know him, but I knew he was from Argentina. So, I sat beside him and wanted to introduce myself, and suddenly he said in Ukrainian, ‘Glory to our Lord Jesus Christ’. I was very surprised!” Huzar enthused.
Within Ukraine’s Orthodox community, many have welcomed the fact that the new pope is a Jesuit.
Orthodox Archbishop Yevstratiy said: “Unfortunately, Europe is in urgent need of a new missionary – and a new evangelism, as Francis’ predecessor Benedict XVI pointed out.”
Echoing the views of several other Catholic leaders, Yevstratiy said he hoped Pope Francis would help combat the secularisation of European society, which has seen many turn away from religion.