John Paul II: ‘Most Holy Virgin, Protectress of Ukraine, Watch Over Your Children’
Pope St. John Paul II delivered this stirring homily when he visited Kyiv in June 2001.
Russian armed forces are pushing hard to capture the city of Kyiv. Ukrainian military forces and armed citizens of Kyiv are courageously defending their city. Many will die. Who knows what Kyiv will be tomorrow?
Kyiv is a city of historic Christian importance. It is the place where St. Volodymyr (Vladimir) was baptized and soon began the Christianization of the Rus. On Sunday, June 24, 2001, Pope St. John Paul II offered the Holy Mass at Chaika Airport near Kyiv. The words of his homily from that Mass provide a historic overview of Christianity in Ukraine and selections are presented below in solidarity with the people of Kyiv:
This is the place of the Baptism of Rus’. From Kyiv there began that flowering of Christian life which the Gospel first brought forth in the land of the ancient Rus’, then in the lands of Eastern Europe and, later, beyond the Urals, in the lands of Asia. In a certain sense, then, Kyiv itself played the role of a “precursor of the Lord” among the many peoples who would receive the proclamation of the Gospel from here.
Saint Volodymyr and the inhabitants of Rus’ were baptized by missionaries sent from Constantinople, the greatest center of Christianity in the East. Thus the new-born Church entered the sphere of the exceedingly rich patrimony of faith and culture of the Byzantine Church. This was at the end of the first millennium. …
The Baptism which took place here, in Kyiv, inaugurated the thousand-year history of Christianity in the lands of today’s Ukraine and in the whole region. Today, having the grace of coming to this historic place, my thoughts go back through the more than ten centuries in which the gift of that first Baptism has continued to be poured out upon successive generations of the sons and daughters of this Nation. What a flowering of spiritual, liturgical and ecclesial life developed from the meeting of different cultures and religious traditions! This splendid inheritance is now entrusted to you, dear brothers and sisters. During these days of my pilgrimage to your country, I join you in praying that your own generation, at the beginning of a new millennium, will prove worthy of the great traditions of its past. …
Land of Ukraine, drenched with the blood of martyrs, thank you for the example of fidelity to the Gospel which you have given to Christians the world over! So many of your sons and daughters walked in complete fidelity to Christ; many of them remained constant even to the supreme sacrifice. May their witness serve as an example and a stimulus for the Christians of the third millennium. …
City of Kyiv, may you be a “light to Ukraine.” From you there set out the evangelizers who down the centuries have been “John the Baptists” for the peoples dwelling in these lands. How many of them, like John, suffered in order to bear witness to the truth, and by their blood became the seed of new Christians. May future generations never lack men and women of the mettle of these, your glorious ancestors.
Most Holy Virgin, Protectress of Ukraine, you have always guided the Christian people on their pilgrim way. Continue to watch over your children. Help them never to forget the “name,” the spiritual identity which they received in Baptism. Help them to rejoice always in the priceless grace of being followers of Christ (cf. John 3:29). May you be the guide of each one. You, Mother of God and our Mother, Mary!
Pope St. John Paul II, intercede for Ukraine!