The Pontifical Mass and canonization ceremonies celebrated by the Holy Father, Pope Francis on Sunday, April 27, 2014, began with great solemnity but under dark clouds and with light rain falling.  At the moment Pope Francis prayed the Prayer of Canonization, “For the honour of the Blessed Trinity, the exaltation of the Catholic faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own, after due deliberation and frequent prayer for divine assistance, and after having sought the counsel of many of our brother Bishops, we declare and define Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II be Saints and we enroll them among the Saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, a visible brightness occurred in the skies above us and the light rain ceased.  It remained this way well after the conclusion of the Pontifical Mass.  

It was a privilege to be amidst others gathered in prayer, among them Pope Benedict XVI, the many Cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and faithful from throughout the world.  All came with loving devotion and praise of these two Popes now recognized as Saints.  We pray for their intercession for the needs of all humanity for which they consecrated their earthly life.

I especially prayed for the hierarchy, clergy, religious, seminarians, and faithful of our Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States of America.  May that same brightness of light and the presence of Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II overtake all of us.  May the clouds and rain drops of earthly life, our hardships with which we must cope and overcome, disappear for all, allowing us to be consumed by the light of the lives of the saints.  May their intercession guide us to more brightly present the light of Christ to the world which surrounds us and thirsts for His light through you and me.

Pope John XXIII expressed a special love and dedication for our Ukrainian Catholic Church while our Church was in the catacombs, interceding in various ways to aid our suffering and persecuted Church during the harsh communist times.  He facilitated the release of Patriarch Josyf Slipyj from his exile in Siberia, initiating hope for a renewed Ukrainian Catholic Church worldwide.  With his calling of Vatican II, all Eastern Catholic Churches were recognized for their dignity as equal Christians.

Pope John Paul II showed much heartfelt affection for our Ukrainian Catholic Church, overseeing our Church’s rebirth with independence of Ukraine.  He personally visited our Ukrainian Catholic Cathedrals in Philadelphia, and in Winnipeg, and elsewhere throughout the world, offering encouragement and recognition of a universal Catholic Church breathing with two lungs, east and west.  Pope John Paul II visited Ukraine in 2001, celebrating Divine Liturgies in Kyiv and Lviv, and blessing many holy sites.  During the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, Pope John Paul II raised twenty-seven martyrs to the dignity of “Blessed”, giving recognition to the martyrdom of our Church and the holiness of its ministers and faithful.  He was steadfast in encouraging our Church to realize its full richness and experience of our rich traditions as a gift to be shared and appreciated by the entire Catholic Church.

I personally met Pope John Paul II on a number of occasions.  Especially I recall a lunch at his residence with eight other Eastern Catholic Bishops during the Special Synod on the theme of Bishops.  Pope John Paul II showed such intense interest  in the affairs of each of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and ensured that each of us were fully involved in the discussion, to the extent of even limiting one bishop who wanted to monopolize the discussion.  Pope John Paul II looked upon people as individuals even amidst crowds.  He expressed this saintly quality as did Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta whom he knew well.  His unconditional service of the Lord and of His Church was expressed in a vibrant, energetic, compassionate and joyful manner, giving you and me saintly example to follow.

Let us especially pray fervently to Saint John XXIII and Saint John Paul II asking their intercession for Ukraine.  Their lived commitment to strive for human dignity and freedom for all carries forth in their saintly lives.  Our sincere prayers to them will result in their intercession with the bright light of hope as followers of the Risen Christ.

The celebrations were solemn and spiritual, offering much hope in all times, and especially now with the challenges posed by totalitarian regimes in Eastern Europe and in various parts of the world.  May the intercessory power of Saint John XXIII and John Paul II convert hatred and hostility into passionate striving for human dignity for all.  Let us pray for this for people throughout the world, and for all amidst us in our communities in the USA.