The Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora convened its 12th Clergy-Laity Congress (SOBOR) on Friday, February 2, 2024, marking a significant moment in the ongoing journey of this ecclesiastical community scattered across the globe. Under the spiritual leadership of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, the Prime Hierarch of the UOC in Diaspora and Archbishop Daniel, the Sobor delved into pivotal matters, notably the establishment of 30 new Ukrainian Orthodox parishes in Germany.
The Sobor commenced with a momentous celebration – the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Meeting of the Lord, also known as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. It commemorates the biblical account of Mary and Joseph bringing the infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem, fulfilling the ritual requirements for the consecration of the firstborn. The venerable liturgical celebration symbolizes the encounter between the old and the new, the fulfillment of prophecies, and the beginning of Christ's public ministry.
Against this sacred backdrop, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora commenced its Clergy-Laity Congress, invoking divine blessings and seeking spiritual guidance for the journey ahead. With the blessing of His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, Archbishop Daniel presided over the Divine Liturgy, emphasizing the importance of grounding the Sobor in the spiritual essence of their Faith.
The celebration of the Divine Liturgy not only marked the start of the Sobor but also served as a unifying force for the diaspora community. It brought together clergy and laity in a shared act of worship, reinforcing the bonds that connect the Ukrainian faithful across geographical distances. The liturgy became a symbolic gathering point, transcending the physical separation of the Diaspora and fostering a sense of spiritual togetherness.
As the faithful partook in the Eucharist, the Sobor's agenda began to unfold, guided by the principles of faith, unity, and service. The plenary sessions of the Sobor provided a platform for discussions on the role of the Church in preserving cultural identity, fostering community engagement, and addressing the evolving needs of the Diaspora. Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel emphasized the importance of adaptability while staying true to the core tenets of Orthodox Christianity, ensuring that the Church remains a relevant and supportive institution for its members.
The news of the expansion of parishes in Germany underscored the vibrant growth and resilience of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora. It signifies a commitment to fostering spiritual communities and providing a sense of belonging for the Ukrainian faithful residing in Germany. These new parishes not only serve as places of spiritual worship but also as cultural and communal hubs, bridging the gap between the faithful and their ancestral roots.
Amidst the ecclesiastical developments, the Sobor turned its attention to the pressing issue of pastoral service to Ukrainian refugees during these tumultuous times of war. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a significant displacement of people seeking refuge and solace across various parts of the world. Notably, the pastoral care extended to Ukrainian refugees in Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, France, and Germany took center stage in the discussions.
In Australia and New Zealand, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora has been actively engaged in offering spiritual support to Ukrainian refugees, providing a haven for those displaced by the ravages of war. The church becomes a place of solace, a sanctuary where the displaced can find spiritual nourishment and a sense of community in a foreign land.
Belgium, France, and Germany, being closer to the epicenter of the war, have witnessed a significant influx of Ukrainian refugees. The Clergy-Laity Congress acknowledged the challenges faced by the diaspora in these regions and emphasized the role of the Church in providing not only spiritual guidance but also practical assistance, ranging from language support to aiding in the integration process.
The pastoral service extended to Ukrainian refugees reflects the Church's commitment to the well-being of its members, transcending geographical boundaries. Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel emphasized the importance of standing in solidarity with those affected by the war, offering a message of hope and resilience during these challenging times.
As the plenary sessions of the Sobor unfolded, discussions also touched upon the broader role of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora in fostering unity, preserving Holy Orthodox identity, and promoting dialogue in the countries where its parishes are established. The church serves as a bridge between the Ukrainian diaspora and the local communities, fostering understanding and cooperation.
The commencement of the 12th Clergy-Laity Congress of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora with the celebration of the Divine Liturgy for the feast of the Meeting of the Lord was a poignant and spiritually enriching experience. It laid the foundation for a Sobor that would navigate the complexities of the Diaspora existence, drawing inspiration from the timeless traditions of the Holy Orthodox faith and seeking guidance for the path ahead.
In conclusion, the 12th Clergy-Laity Congress of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Diaspora, led by Metropolitan Antony and Archbishop Daniel, has been a momentous occasion marked by the establishment of new parishes in Germany and a deep reflection on the pastoral service to Ukrainian refugees in various corners of the world. It underscores the church's unwavering commitment to providing spiritual guidance and support, transcending borders and offering a beacon of hope in times of uncertainty.