On December 12, 2021, the Zoom Conference hosted the Eparchial Sobor “Emigration, Settlement and Global Unity of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church” in the Eparchy of Melbourne of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul for Ukrainians in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania.
For us, as parts of the church outside Ukraine, this topic has become especially important, although in our Eparchy we planned this Sobor two years ago. Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, severe restrictive measures for our lives, and the anticipation of the arrival of our new Bishop Mykola Bychok, it so happened that we have just held this Sobor meeting in Australia.
- Bishop Mykola took part in the Australian Conference of the Catholic Bishops
- Bishop Mykola took part in the meeting of the Catholic bishops of Victoria
- Bishop Mykola Bychok performed the act of consecration under the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Eparchy of Melbourne
Based on documents from the Head of our Church, Patriarch Sviatoslav and the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC, our Eparchy, and thus each parish at its own level, was asked about three series of questions. First: Where are we today? Where are our faithful? How many of us are in our churches regarding registered addresses? External and internal migration. Second: What are we like today? What positive manifestations do we see in the life of our parishes and Eparchy? What are the challenges and obstacles in the life of our parishes and Eparchy? After analysing, we saw what needs our faithful have and how much our Church responds to them. Third: How do we act and be the Church today? How can the clergy and consecrated persons serve our faithful? How can our parishes and the Eparchy be strengthened? What is necessary to reach the faithful, especially in the process of relocation, i.e., migration?
To facilitate the process of learning about the situation and recognizing what people expect from the Eparchy, a survey was previously conducted, which became the platform on which opinions were formed. Each parish had the opportunity to analyse the responses of its people by conducting the parish level of the Sobor.
The main focus of the Sobor hearings from both parishes and the Eparchy was to submit proposals for the roadmap, which will later be drawn up by the Secretariat of the Eparchial Sobor in the Pastoral Plan, which will be sent as proposals from our Eparchy to the Patriarchal Sobor.
Bishop Mykola Bychok, Eparch of Melbourne, opening the Eparchial Sobor with a prayer and an introductory speech, said: “Today’s event reveals to us one important virtue of Christians: to be able to listen to each other. We are all aware of the challenges and difficulties posed by the coronavirus pandemic for our Eparchy in general and for each parish in particular. Therefore, I urge all participants in the Sobor to open their hearts to the action of the Holy Spirit, who will enlighten, sanctify and guide us into the future.”
Afterwards, each parish, starting from the smallest and the most distant, presented its life circumstances primarily in the light of positive manifestations and also emphasized certain existing obstacles. We all had one thing in common: the ordeal that the whole world is going through and how the Church is to adapt in a pandemic or post-coronavirus period. The words of consolation for us were the words of His Beatitude Sviatoslav: “The Church is always and everywhere with you, because you carry it with you where you live, work and study.” The Church has always embraced its children and gathered those who were scattered.
The main focus of the Sobor hearings from both parishes and the Eparchy was to submit proposals for the roadmap, which will later be drawn up by the Secretariat of the Eparchial Sobor in the Pastoral Plan, which will be sent as proposals from our Eparchy to the Patriarchal Sobor. After the first part of the parish hearings, sister Maria Moravska, SSMI shared spiritual reflections on “The Holy Family as a Christian example that is relevant today, especially in trial.” Afterwards, sister Anizia Shevchuk, OSBM shared their spiritual reflections on “Vocations in the Modern World.”
During this Sobor, each participant experienced the importance of listening to the Holy Spirit and to one another. It was in this sense of understanding that the delegates later discussed and presented their very valuable proposals, which will be a guide for the Melbourne Eparchy in the future. It should be noted that all priests, deacons, faithful, nuns from Australia and representatives from New Zealand took part in this Council. At the end of the conciliar work, all the delegates united in common prayer, receiving blessing from Bishop Mykola Bychok for their parishes and families.