Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests

Italy experiences “wonderful gift” of married priests

Bishop Dionisio Lachovicz, the papal delegate to the Ukrainian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Italy, has insisted that married priests are a “gift” to the Church.

Driving the news

Lachovicz was speaking to SIR on the occasion of the end of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Synod, or meet of bishops, in Rome.

The bishop, who along with Cardinal Angelo De Donatis oversees the new community Pope Francis set up in July for Ukrainian Greek Catholics in Italy, said this new structure would give Italians the chance to experience the “novelty” of married priests.

While the Latin Catholic Church insists on celibacy for the clergy, married priests (though not bishops) are permitted in many of the Eastern rites in communion with the Vatican, such as in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

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Go deeper

“They do a wonderful job”, Lachovicz said of his community’s married priests.

“Their wives often cooperate in the life of the community. Together they help form the community, the domestic Church, the family of the Church”, he added.

Though the bishop was sceptical of non-compulsory celibacy being the answer to the shortage of priests, he did admit married priests remain a “question” for the global Church.

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“At the beginning there was a very strong opposition against this reality. Now we perceive a certain degree of openness.

“So let’s say that married priests are not the solution to a complex problem at the moment, but they represent an open question for the Church”, Lachovicz explained.

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The big picture

In his interview with SIR, Bishop Lachovicz also addressed the problem of the Ukrainian women who try to return home after decades of working in Italy to support their families at home.

“These women arrived in Italy to work when they were 30, 40, or 50 years-old. But after 20 years as immigrants, now they are elderly women”, the bishop explained.

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“They left their husbands and children behind, and many families have broken up. When their working experience in Italy was over, they returned home, but they were rejected.

“They sent home all the money they earned. That money allowed them to get their children into school, build a house. But there is no place for them in Ukraine today”, Lachovicz lamented.

The bishop promised that the new exarchate, together with the Italian Bishops’ Conference, will respond to these women’s cry for help.

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Why it matters

According to SIR, there are currently some 70,000 Ukrainian Greek Catholics living in Italy.

They are spread over 148 communities and six parishes, all over the country, and they are attended to by 64 priests.

The Ukrainian population in general in Italy now numbers some 300,000, officially, or some 500,000, including those Ukrainians in the country without proper papers.

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