Last weekend (14 and 15 July) was quite special for a great many young Ukrainians; over 100,000 participated in a youth pilgrimage to the shrine of Mary, the Mother of God, in the western Ukrainian village of Zarvanytsia. The shrine is particularly known for its miraculous icon of the Mother of God. Even in the days of the Soviet Union, when Ukrainian Greek Catholicism was outlawed, the site drew thousands of pilgrims who risked everything to profess publicly their Christian faith. Since the independence of Ukraine, the shrine has become “the Lourdes of Ukraine” and one of the most popular pilgrimage locations of Eastern Europe.
Among the pilgrims to Zarvanytsia this year was Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Elias Chacour, bishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee. The archbishop came to Ukraine to witness the flourishing faith of the Ukrainian people and to ask them to pray for Christians of the Holy Land who currently face challenges due to violent conflicts and extremism.
The program in Zarvanytsia was led by His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, and other bishops of both Ukrainian Greek and Latin Catholic Churches also participated. Many of the faithful walked hundreds of kilometers in order to enjoy the spiritual benefits of the pilgrimage to the fullest.
One highlight of the event was the candle procession from the parish church to the recently built monument dedicated to the Theotokos. For video footage, see below: