On October 7th 2011 the Church of Merciful God the Father has become the first Shrine in the world dedicated to Our Heavenly Father. But, as every Church has a History Our Shrine also has a history….
On August 7, 2004 in the city of Zaporizhzhya, the long-awaited celebration of the consecration of the Church of Merciful God the Father took place. The Church is unusual; the only one in Eastern Europe truly became an architectural landmark of the city.
The history of the Catholic Church in Zaporizhzhya
In 1993, a Catholic priest Fr Jan Sobilo came to work in Zaporizhzhya. In the beginning, Holy Mass was celebrated in various halls. Then, thanks to the help of Bishop Jan Olshansky and the Catholic charity organization from Germany “Kirche in Not”, the parish of St. Paul bought the unfinished little house, where the first chapel of St. Paul the Apostle was subsequently located. In March 1994, the repair and reconstruction of the residential building for the chapel and housing for the priests began. The construction work was carried out by the joint forces of the whole parish, and went very quickly. In the summer of 1994, thanks to the help of many people, especially Bishop Stanislav Shirokoradyuk, the repair and construction work was completed. On September 4, 1994, Bishop Jan Olshansky consecrated the chapel of St. Paul the Apostle. On October 2, 1994, for the first time in the history of the city of Zaporizhzhya, the Most Holy Sacraments were placed in the Tabernacle. Since that time, faithful have come here for the morning and evening Holy Mass on weekdays, Sundays and holidays. As the number of parishioners increased, the need to build a new and bigger Church for Catholic believers was increasingly felt.
A special page in the history of the Roman Catholic community of Zaporizhzhya was opened after the apostolic blessing of the Holy Father John Paul II. This blessing became that light, a gracious ray that generously illuminated and consecrated the way to the building of the Church of Merciful God the Father.
In April 1997, Pope John Paul II conveyed his blessing to the whole of Zaporizhzhya through the rector of the Roman Catholic community of Zaporizhzhya, Fr Jan Sobilo. A personal meeting with the Holy Father took place thanks to the efforts of Fr Mechislav Mokshitsky – Personal Secretary of Pope John Paul II.
At the end of 1997, Fr. Jan appealed to the city’s authorities to allocate a plot of land for the construction of the Church. And the issue was resolved positively. April 5, 1998 in Palm Sunday, Bishop Stanislav Padevsky consecrated the land for the construction of a temple in the center of the city of Zaporizhzhya.
On December 7, 1998, Pope John Paul II consecrated the cornerstone taken from the foundations of the Basilica of St. Peter the Apostle in Rome. And on October 7, 1999, on the first Thursday of the month in memory of the Mother of God of the Holy Rosary with the participation of bishops and priests of Orthodox, Catholic, and other Christian denominations, it was laid in the wall being built of the Church of the Merciful God the Father. The solemn Liturgy was led by Bishop Leon Dubravsky.
On February 20, 2000, Bishop Leon Dubravsky and Fr Jan Soblo were invited to dinner with Pope John Paul II. At the end of the dinner, the Pope blessed the construction of the Church of Merciful God the Father and left his signature under the construction project.
On May 4, 2002, Holy Father John Paul II founded a new Kharkov-Zaporizhzhya diocese and appointed His Eminence Stanislav Padevsky as the first bishop of this diocese.
After that, Bishop Stanislav Padevsky moved to Zaporizhzhya and founded there his residence and diocesan administration.
Consecration of the Church of Merciful God the Father
The Temple of God the Father embodies the main Western architectural type of churches-basilica (basilica menas in Latin, and in Greek “king’s grotto”): a rectangular building divided in rows of columns and pillars into an odd number of longitudinal parts (3 naves) with lighting from the upper windows and an apse niche in the altar part. Classically strict interior decoration. Beauty and harmony of lines. But in every seemingly insignificant detail of the interior of the Church, the work of a large number of people, clergy and secular people, sponsors-benefactors and parishioners of Zaporizhzhya, was invested.
On August 7, 2004, representatives of the Roman Catholic Church from all over Ukraine, as well as Germany, Poland and Italy gathered in Zaporizhzhya all together to feel themselves as one Body of Christ and together celebrate a significant event: the consecration of the Church of Merciful God the Father.
Together with the faithful, their shepherds arrived: Ordinary bishop of Kamenets-Podolsky diocese Leon Maximilian Dubravsky, bishop of Odessa and Simferopol Bronislav Bernatsky, assistant bishop of Kiev-Zhytomyr diocese Stanislav Shirokoradyuk, as well as many priests.
“We often imagine and feel God the Father as a formidable One, Who should be feared but we forget that the Lord is above all our Father, the Father, the Good and the Compassionate, the One to whom you can come with your pain, your problems and Which you do not need to fear, – said in a sermon dedicated to this unforgettable event, Bishop Stanislav – Let this wonderful Church, Our Father’s Church, be a reminder and a testimony of the true Mercy of God. ”
Life of the parish
The new history of the Catholic parish in Zaporizhzhya has more than 24 years. Today in the parish, with the help of priests, sisters and active parishioners, catechesis of children, youth and adults is conducted; Youth meetings are held regularly; there is a medical office “Caritas”, the movement “Legion of Mary”, brother-monks from the Order of St. Brother Albert organized a charity canteen for the homeless. In the summer the pilgrimages of Melitopol-Zaporizhzhya are organized, and diocesan meetings of the youth are held.
When Holy Father Francis established the year of Mercy, Our shrine also opened doors to all those who needed Mercy. On the day when the doors of mercy where closed in every Cathedral, Shrine or Basilica, Pope Francis let know to our Nuncio Claudio Guggerti that he wanted to keep our doors open…
Now, the Shrine of Merciful God the Father has become a real family for many people, in which mutual understanding and support grow.
The Shrine of Merciful God the Father
Shrine of Merciful God the Father in Zaporizhzhya Ukraine is the first Shrine in the world dedicated to God as Our Merciful Father. Pope Saint John Paul II dreamed that Churches would be dedicated to God as a Father. When he heard from Fr Jan Sobilo that he was hoping to build a Church with such a Name, he blessed the project and gave as a gift a corner stone from St Peter Basilica to be the first stone on which the Church would be built.
The church was built in 2004 with great love and deep devotion to God as the Father and in 2011 it was established as a co Cathedral and Shrine in Kharkivsko -Zaporizska Diocese.
The Inspiration to build the Church with such a name came to Fr Jan from Bishop Stanislav Padevsky, who heard about unique apparitions from God as a Father to Mother Eugenia Ravassio, the only approved apparitions in the Catholic Church where God speaks to her as a Loving Father to all human kind.
When you enter inside of the Shrine you see a magnificent Icon of God the Father which was painted by Lia Galdiolo, one of the most famous contemporary iconographers, to create an icon of the picture of the Father just as He had revealed Himself to Mother Eugenia.
So that the Father may be “known, honored and loved by all men”, as He himself requested in the Message He gave in 1932 and whose authenticity was recognized by the Church after ten years of rigorous examination:
“I desire that the clergy bring me into all families, hospitals, laboratories, workshops, barracks, conference halls where the ministers of nations make decisions. In short, wherever My creatures are, even if there were only one of them!
I desire that the tangible sign of My invisible presence be a picture to show that I am really present. Thus, all men will carry out all their actions under their Father’s gaze and I Myself will have before Me the creature that I have not only created but adopted. In this way, My children will be, as it were, under their tender Father’s gaze.
Even now I am everywhere, certainly, but I would like to be represented in a tangible way!”
“I also desire that every family prominently display the picture I will later show to My “little daughter”. I wish every family to be able to place itself under My special protection in this way, so that they can honor Me more easily. There, every day, the family will share with Me its needs, its work, its sorrows, its sufferings, its desires, and also its joys, because a Father must know everything that concerns His children. I do know it, of course, because I am there, but I love simplicity. I know how to adapt Myself to your condition. I make Myself little with little ones; I make Myself an adult with adults; and the same with the elderly, so that all may comprehend what I wish to tell them for their sanctification and My glory. I also desire that this picture will be exposed in all public places, in offices, in homes, in barracks, in schools…”
Mother Eugenia asked a famous painter to paint a picture of the Father just as she had seen Him: with long black hair, dark eyes, without beard, with a scepter and a crown at His feet.
The fact that He didn’t have a beard caused innumerable objections in the Church and was the cause of great affliction for Mother Eugenia who had to tell the painter to touch up His face by adding a thick, black beard. Only then was the picture allowed to be spread.
The censors were put off track by traditional European painting which has always represented the Father with a “beard”, correlating it with the human idea of virility; and “old” in reference to the Son who, always according to a human scheme, should be younger than the Father. But they didn’t take into account two factors: a beard is a sign of humanity and old age can’t concern the three divine Persons who are coeternally young. In fact, Eastern iconographers portray divine Persons as being young and without a beard; may the example of Rublev’s Trinity be an example for all.
St. Louise Marie Grignon de Montfort, in his book “The true devotion to the blessed Virgin” says: 225.“You never think of Mary without Mary thinking of God for you. You never praise or honor Mary without Mary joining you in praising and honoring God. Mary is entirely relative to God. Indeed I would say that she was relative only to God, because she exists uniquely in reference to him. She is an echo of God, speaking and repeating only God. If you say “Mary” she says “God”. When we praise her, when we love and honor her, when we present anything to her, then God is praised, honored and loved and receives our gift through Mary and in Mary.”
These same words could be applicable to Jesus in relation with His Father. Whenever we say “Jesus” He says “Abba!” Being the perfect Image of the Father, Jesus´s deeper dream is for us to know the Father through Him “So that they may be one, Father, as we also are one” (Jn 17:22).
Our only possible relation with the Father is through Jesus. And we will never learn and live that relationship without the Love between them, which is the Holy Spirit. That´s why praying to the Father makes the heart become Trinitarian, in a constant need of the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity to start living this closeness of the Father.