ХVI Собор Української Православної Єпархії Південної Америки Проходить у Курітибі, Бразилія, Зібравши Делегатів із Аргентини, Бразилії та Парагваю
Fifty-five delegates, hierarchs and clergy from Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay prayerfully gathered in Curitiba - the capital of the southern Brazilian state of Paraná for the XVI Regular Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of South America on 2-4 September, 2022.
His Eminence Metropolitan Antony blessed the convocation of the Eparchial Sobor and delegated Archbishop Daniel to travel to Brazil in order the participate in the proceedings of the Clergy-Laity Council of the South American Eparchy of the Church, under the spiritual leadership of the eparchial hierarch – Archbishop Jeremiah.
The Sobor of the Eparchy was preceded by a Clergy Conference of all active priests and deacons of the Ukrainian Orthodox parish communities in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, during which the clergy entered into an engaging dialogue with the hierarchs, addressing the vital pastoral spiritual and moral issues of the communities, where the parishes and clergy minister to the people of God. The clergy received guidance of the Council of Bishops of the Church as it pertains to the spiritual care of individuals, struggling with various social and moral issues of the modern society.
A lengthy discussion took place about the need to develop proper liturgical translations into Portuguese and Spanish languages. Archimandrite Demetrious of the Presentation of our Lord Ukrainian Orthodox monastery in Paraguay informed the participants of the Clergy conference of the ongoing work with liturgical translation of services into Spanish language by the monastic community. So far 4 volumes of Octoechos, over 200 Akathist services, Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and Psalter have been translated, as additional work is in progress. Archbishop Daniel welcomed the translation project and assured everyone in attendance of the importance of proper spiritual liturgical worship and communication to the youth of the Church, as the Eparchy ministers to the faithful in South America, where daily spoken languages are Spanish and Portuguese.
The formal proceedings of the Sobor began on Saturday, September 3, 2022 with the celebration of the Moleben, led by Fr. Pavlo Guliewicz of Archangel Michal Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Curitiba, Brazil and Deacon Miguel Babak of the Presentation of our Lord Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral in Fram, Paraguay. Following the service, Archbishop Daniel offered introductory reflection, calling the delegates of the Sobor to spiritual maturity and accountability as the Church of Christ navigates through the turbulent times of worldly secularization that is penetrating the fabric of the Faith-based communities throughout the world, but especially Ukrainian Orthodox parishes in Diaspora.
His Eminence Archbishop Jeremiah, the Eparchial Bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox communities in South America, opened the Sobor, wishing all in attendance the Guidance of the Holy Spirit, as the Ministry of the Church is the Ministry of Christ Himself.
In his letter of greeting to the participants of the Sobor, Metropolitan Antony stated: “I greet you all as you gather as the people of God at the 16th Regular Sobor of the Eparchy. My greatest regret today is that I am not able to be physically present with you for this gathering to embrace you all in the Love of our Lord. I’ve had a few health problems and surgeries over the past year and I’m still not able to travel such a great distance on several flights to share that embrace, but please be assured that I am spiritually present with you and that my dear Brother Hierarch, Archbishop Daniel will represent me with the same depth of love that I have for you.
The world is a very difficult place these days and we all are very much concerned about what is happening – once again – to our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, suffering under new oppression and suppression from the Russian Federation through an unjustifiable invasion, which has already lasted for nearly seven months and killed thousands of men, women and children. There is no other way to describe what is happening to our people than crimes against humanity and genocide. We have been commemorating, for nearly 90 years now, the most horrific genocide of the Holodomor – Murder by Starvation during the Stalin made artificial famine of 1932-33 and all the millions killed throughout the 74 years of the Communist regime. Each year we proclaim: “NEVER AGAIN!” But here we are again suffering because of the sick mind and soul of another Russian dictator whose own people fail to contradict.
It may seem that we are far, far away from what is happening in Ukraine, but in this modern world where communication is instant, we enter daily through the news media into the cities, villages and even homes of those suffering and beseeching our help. Archbishop Daniel will speak to you about the blessings we have received from ordinary citizens of the USA who have come forth to offer many forms of aid – most especially millions of dollars in cash – which have enabled our church to provide abundant aide for people across Ukraine. We cannot escape the knowledge of what is taking place in Ukraine today. The Archbishop and I have witnessed miracles taking place because the world is stepping up and not standing by in silence as it did throughout the last century.
Why do I speak of all this in my words to you during this Sobor? It is because I pray with all my heart and soul that each of you will always treasure in your hearts and souls who you are and where your parents and grandparents came from. This is important because there are those in the world who would call us to abandon who we are, to forget about where we came from, to leave what is happening in Ukraine today out of our lives and to join with them in the new world of Brazil or Paraguay or Argentina, or Venezuela. They would tempt us to be concerned with only what is happening locally rather than in the world around us -
tempt us to be part of something greater than just our beautiful Ukrainian Orthodox Church throughout South America that retains the treasury of our spiritual, ethnic, cultural and historical heritage. In other words – to become what we are not, rather than live with great pride and joy in that heritage passed on to us from our parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents. How would our brothers and sisters in today’s Ukraine react to us if we choose to abandon our own heritage?
At the beginning of this Sobor, you will most certainly pray for the Holy Spirit’s Guidance throughout all the deliberations and discussions that will occur during the Sobor. I ask you to take that Guidance to heart and believe that all you discuss can and will reflect it. We all have received the Grace of God throughout our lives in the Holy Sacraments, beginning with Baptism and Chrismation followed immediately by Eucharist – Holy Communion – from infancy on at each Divine Liturgy. That Grace is what strengthens you, my dearly beloved, it is the force that will carry you through all moments of sadness and more importantly, moments of joy. In both, we must remember how that Grace affected us and sometimes this is difficult to do – especially in the moments of joy, when we have a tendency to take all the credit ourselves instead of giving thanks to God in the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
May your Sobor discussion focus on how you will approach your children and grandchildren to guide them in and through faith. May you seek always to welcome them and to be examples of all that is good about being Ukrainian Orthodox Christians. They must feel at home with and loved by you. I still remember my last visit to Paraguay and the hundreds of children I met and embraced in all the parishes I visited. I have spoken about this experience here in the USA many times, always with a prayer that it can still be the same today – and that we each bear great responsibility of “letting the little children come to Christ”, Who will embrace them and love them with a love that can never be taken away.
I pray that this very same LOVE of Christ embraces each of you today my dear brothers and sisters. I pray that your Love for your Spiritual Father, Archbishop Jeremiah and his love for you will enable you to work miracles in a world that seems to deny the possibility of miracles. I thank His Eminence, as my dear Brother in service to our Lord, for the powerful witness he has been to you of Christ’s presence amongst you – a presence that strengthens and gives refuge always, just as Archbishop Jeremiah has provided to you. May you all utilize the LOVE of Christ to build a continued Ukrainian Orthodox fortress in such a world – a fortress where all who suffer, all who question, all who doubt, all who suffer in any way, all who face overwhelming storms and temptations of life may find Peace, Joy and Comfort because of your presence in their lives. CHRIST IS AMONGST US! IS AND ALWAYS SHALL BE! Believe this and live this and you will, indeed work miracles.”
The delegates of the Sobor listened to the words of their spiritual father in both Ukrainian and Portuguese languages, as presented by His Eminence Archbishop Daniel and translated by Fr. Ivan Tchopko.
Reports from 18 parishes in Brazil, 7 parish communities and a monastery in Paraguay as well as 3 parish families from Argentina were presented for reflection and discussion by the delegates, addressing spiritual, logistical and economic needs, especially during COVID-19 pandemic and in the post-pandemic society, as parishes continue to recover from the closures and limitations as those were imposed by central and local governments.
Moreover, the Sobor received reports from the Eparchial structures, headed by the Consistory offices of the Church.
New officers for a three-year period were elected by the delegates of the Sobor, thus enabling the prayerful continuation of the administrative branch of the Eparchial structure.
On Sunday, September 4, 2022 the Sobor proceedings concluded with the celebration of Divine Liturgy, served by Archbishops Jeremiah and Daniel and all clergy present at the Sobor.
Following the Gospel reading, Vladyka Daniel offered sermon reflection, stating “What would you say is the greatest danger facing the Church today? Liberalism, Humanism, Phariseeism, Feminism? Some say it is Christian Colleges, Post Modern Thinking. I have my own personal convictions about those things, but I do not think any of them are the Church’s greatest danger.
Rather I am convinced that our greatest foe is something more personal, more intimate with each of us.
The story of the Rich Young Ruler contains so many wonderful lessons for the life of a follower of God: lessons about stewardship, humility, worldly riches, and obedience to name a few. Yet it also warns us of our greatest danger…
"I can’t" are the two most destructive words in Christianity and the greatest danger facing the Church. It is the expression of a heart and mind that does not possess a faith that trusts completely in the power of God. How many times do we say, "I can’t" when faced with a decision where the spiritual challenges the physical?
"I can’t surrender my life to Jesus because……. I can’t give up my friends for Christ even though they are bad influences. I can’t put the Lord first in every thing I do because Jesus interferes with my business practices. I can’t go into all the world because I am afraid someone will not like me if I ask them about their relationship with Jesus. Individually those are the things we say.
Collectively, as a congregation of the Lord’s Church we often fall into the same trap. The church has just as many "We can’ts" as the individual has "I can’ts." We can’t enact a certain program because we do not have the resources. We can’t evangelize our community because…. We can’t….
"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." God can do the impossible? Yes, that’s exactly what He said. Where we can’t, God can. With our own abilities we are unable, but with God we are able to do anything.
We are talking about the same God who created life from nothing, who at the wave of Moses’ hands parted the Red Sea and produced dry land, and who destroy Satan’s greatest weapon, death, with His Resurrection. If He can do those things, and He did, imagine what He can do with a life that trusts Him completely.
Jesus said, "With faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains!" Matthew 17:20
Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me the strength." Philippians 4:13. All things – anything – everything – with the power of God!
Our doing and working in His Kingdom is not about personal ability, it is about personal faith. It is not about talent, but about desire.
With God all things are possible! He can change our "I can’t" into "I will". He can transform our doubts into rock-solid confidence. Even the impossible, becomes reality.
So, get rid of all of your I CAN’Ts and start saying I WILL!”
Dozens of faithful approached the Scared Chalice in order to partake in the Most Holy Eucharist. Following the dismissal, Archbishop Jeremiah welcomed His Eminence Archbishop Daniel to Brazil and express personal greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Antony, looking forward to welcome Metropolitan of the Church in South America in the near future.
The conclusion of the day became even more special once the delegation of the local Roman-Catholic monastic Redemptorist parish arrived, bearing in the hands the sacred image of St. Joseph – the Guardian of the infant Jesus, the mosaic work of a parishioner of St. Demetrious Ukrainian Orthodox cathedral in Curitiba, and a one-time student of St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Theological Seminary of the UOC of the USA – iconographer Eduardo Mauro. The mosaic was commissioned by the local Roman-Catholic parish and once completed, it was consecrated by Archbishop Jeremiah and a local Roman-Catholic hierarch as an Ecumenical spiritual act of mutual love and respect. Since the time of completion, numerous faithful of the Church have venerated and prayed in front of the icon, claiming numerous miraculous healings in the parish families, local hospitals and community centers.
The icon was brough forth, as the local roman-catholic choir chanted prayerful intercessory petitions to St. Joseph. All in attendance venerated the sacred image and in conclusion prayers were offered for the peace in Ukraine – chanting “Bozhe Velykyi..”
As the late hours of Sunday afternoon approached, the delegates and guests of the XVIth Regular Sobor gathered for a farewell luncheon, thus preparing to depart for their home parishes and countries, being inspired and fulfilled for the next three years of spiritual ministry among the people of God.
The XVIIth Sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of South America is projected to take place in Fram, Paraguay in 2025.
Photos by Fr. Ivan Tchopko and Dorotea Tchopko