KRZYSZTOF TADEJ: - What is the situation like in Ukraine now?

ARCHBISHOP MIECZYSŁAW MOKRZYCKI: - A lot of inhabitants are afraid what will happen. The situation is not stable. It is 5 years since there has been a war in the east of the country. Crimea is still being occupied. The last events – arresting 24 sailors by the Russian court– only deepened these fears. Introducing the martial law in the end of 2018 in some Ukrainian districts was the reaction to a potential danger. In talks with inhabitants there is domineering concern and fear. Therefore I am asking you and appealing for a prayer for peace in Ukraine.

And what about the economic situation? Are the conditions of life in Ukraine still very difficult?

It depends on the situation of particular families. A lot of people from the eastern areas are looking for help. Some people are leaving for other countries, including Poland. They are trying to improve their life. They usually meet with friendliness and help, although sometimes I hear that in Poland somebody did not pay a citizen from Ukraine for his work, or deceived him and mistreated him. A lot of such people hardly know Polish and cannot fight for their rights. Such behaviours cannot be tolerated! One cannot mistreat one’s neighbor! This is a sin!
A lot of citizens of Ukraine are still in a very difficult situation. Not everyone, certainly, cam offer work to somebody, but ordinary friendliness, help, sometimes advice, information are extremely important. We should remember about the words of Jesus: ‘Everything you did to one of my poorer brothers, you did to Me’. Doing the good to those who are in need should be unconditional. We should not ask, for example, whether somebody is from the Orthodox, Greek-Catholic or Catholic Church. We should simply help. As much as we can.

It is over 10 years since Priest Archbishop has been the metropolitan of Lvov of Catholics of the Latin rite. How was the Catholic Church was developing in the archdiocese of Lvov at that time?

Since 1991, that is, announcing the independence of Ukraine, there has been the revival of religious life after hard times of communism. At that time and now we can speak about the spring-time of the Church. It is still developing. My great predecessor – cardinal Marian Jaworski was creating the structures of the Catholic Church – he was establishing parishes and regaining churches. He had to overcome a lot of difficulties. It was connected with a lot of effort and devotion. When I was entrusted with an arch-cathedral in2008, it was easier to me. I could devote more time to build an ‘alive’ Church – develop the range of catechization, to introduce church movements. Today the movements working actively are: the Light-Life Movement, Columbus Knights or the Home Church. I am glad that one can see new faces in churches. People arrive as they want to deepen their faith and return to the Catholic Church. There are also those who appear for the first time.
Evangelization successes would not be possible without the great engagement of nuns and priests. I admire their devotion. They help the ill, the poor, the lonely and those who are experiencing various problems. They also spread material help, giving away donations from Poland: medicines, food, chemicals, toys for children. Thanks to sacrifice of good-willed people, the poorest children can receive food after school. Nuns and priests accompany people in difficulties of everyday life. Through their attitude they give a testimony of faith which is always connected with joy and hope. Eternal life is hope.

In the last 10 years in the archdiocese of Lvov there were various investments carried out. Which are the most important?

It results from the necessity and needs. Till now in 10 parishes priests still have not had a place where they could live. They have accommodation in makeshift rooms above the sacristy or they rent very simply-decorated rooms. We are building also new churches. For me what is a great joy is building a church of St. John Paul II. In 2020 we are going to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Paul II and I think that the church will be completed.
In Lvov, in a district of Brzuchowice, we established a retreat and formation centre. A Pilgrims’ House and House of Mercy were established there. Clerics of the seminary already have good conditions to study and live. Near a hippodrome in Lvov where in 2001 the Holy Mass was celebrated by John Paul II, we began to build an enclosed cloister for the Benedictine nuns. It is going to be one of the most important places in the archdiocese. A place of constant everyday prayers and adoration of the Holy Sacrament.

Also the Archbishops’ Palace in Lvov was redecorated.

It is a material symbol of renewing Catholic Church in Ukraine. We regained a building in its poor condition. Thanks to donations of various institutions and individuals, today we can enjoy having it. It includes a lot of church institutions, like: the Curia of Archdiocese, the Metropolitan Court and Tribunal, a Bookshop of St. Paul or a museum of lots of valuable documents, souvenirs, paintings. You can also see here personal items of popes – John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Priest Archbishop often emphasize that you have learnt a lot from believers of Your archdiocese. What are Excellency fascinated with?

With people’s faith. Their engagement in the life of Church and also identifying themselves with Church. I think that in the west of Europe where believers have a lot of such excellent churches, there is no identification like that. In our country where churches are not so illuminated and have central heating system, they do not have the organ or are not well-equipped, they are different. People who entrust their life to God are beautiful. One can admire their faith. They pray to God, entrusting him their worries in a straightforward way, with a child’s trustfulness.

Is there a real chance for pope Francis to visit these people? Will the Holy Father visit Ukraine in the nearest years?

On every occasion we invite the Holy Father. He always says that he remembers about us. He assures us about prayers for Ukraine. Knowing the way of making decisions by Francis, I hope that he will surprise everybody and will come. And here, on this land, he will be asking us for peace and making an appeal for stopping fights.

Priest Archbishop are the only Pole who often meet with the senior pope Benedict XVI. How does he feel?

Despite his elderly age, as the Holy Father has already reached the age of 91, when we are meeting, he is joyful and smiling. He speaks a bit more quietly but I do not pay attention to it. I feel with the Pope like at home, like before when I was his secretary. And he emphasizes that this home is always open to me. The last time we met was at the end of October last year. We were talking for over an hour. The Holy Father was asking me about the Catholic Church in Ukraine, about my everyday ministry, about my joys and worries. He was asking me to pass over his blessing to priests, nuns and believers. He emphasized that he was thinking about us all the time and was praying for us. He regretted that during his pontificate he had not arrived at Ukraine. He was also asking about Poland. He associates me with John Paul II and Poland, so he asked me also that time what was happening to Poland and how the Church in Poland was developing.

Is it true that he was also asking about ……a dog?

Yes! When I was leaving, he asked me how Rolf was. In the beginning I did not understand what he meant – after all we had been talking about very serious matters. After a while he asked again: ‘How is Rolf? The guardian dog of the house, the German Shepherd dog…’. I was astonished that he remembered the name of my dog. And at the end we were talking about animals humorously for a longer while. And the pope said: ‘I remember this name, as my first parish priest also had a German Shepherd dog called…..Rolf!’. And we thanked and said good bye to each other in that joyful atmosphere.
At the end of this interview I would like to say thank you to all editors of ‘Niedziela’ for their work. Thanks to you the good news can reach to many people. I am also grateful to readers of the weekly ‘Niedziela’ for their prayers, for spiritual and material support for the archdiocese of Lvov. We create a big family together which contributes to building the God’s Kingdom on the earth through a prayer. I thank you very much and I wish you a very good year 2019!

Translated by Aneta Amrozik

Niedziela 4/2019 (27 I 2019)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl