With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Philaret, on July 16, 2022, the secretary of the Vicariate of the UOC KP in the USA and Canada, Bishop of Philadelphia Luka (Zgoba), held met with the ordinary bishop of the Western Diocese of the Polish People's Catholic Church, Jarosław (Jeri) Rafalko. The meeting of the hierarchs took place in the Cathedral of All Saints in the city of Chicago, Illinois. This meeting initiated an ecumenical dialogue at a high church level between the bishops of the fraternal Slavic nations, which have a large number of believers in the USA and Canada.
This historical meeting lasted about three hours. The parties discussed a number of important issues related to the development of the two churches, parish life, spiritual education, the development of interfaith relations in modern conditions, ensuring the personnel potential of the Polish and Ukrainian churches, the creation of religious institutions, as well as the protection of Ukrainian refugees and their children in conditions of armed aggression by Russia against the state of Ukraine.
Chicago Bishop Yaroslav (Jeri) Rafalko noted the importance of the meeting with Bishop Luka, because each of them takes care of their people who are far from their homeland.
Bishop Luka conveyed greetings from His Holiness Philaret, Patriarch of Kyiv and All Rus of Ukraine to Bishop Yaroslav (Jeri) Rafalko, and expressed his gratitude for the comprehensive support and assistance to Ukrainians both here in the USA and in Poland, and for assistance to Ukraine itself in this extremely difficult time of Russian terror.
The peculiarity of the interaction of hierarchs was manifested in the complex coordination of development projects of church parishes and educational institutions in six states: Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Florida. Bishop Luka asked to include Ukrainian children in recreation in the children's camps of the Polish People's Church under the care of Orthodox priests of the Kyiv Patriarchate. To which Bishop Yaroslav immediately agreed, giving the necessary instructions for the implementation of this humanitarian project.
The parties also discussed the creation of a spiritual educational institution for students of higher education. In particular, it was proposed to create a Theological Seminary for the training of clergy in the city of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Future directions of interaction between Ukrainian, Polish and American professors were also discussed. It is planned to hold a conference with the participation of the Ukrainian and Polish clergy, as well as the formation of joint cultural events between the fraternal peoples.
Bishop Luka expressed deep gratitude for the funds that were collected in Polish parishes and passed to the Vicariate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyivan Patriarchate to support Ukrainian refugees from the war.
Bishop Yaroslav (Jeri) Rafalko noted that with the donated funds, Polish believers and clergy also purchased an ambulance and delivered it to Ukraine. In total, over the past four months, they have collected about eighty thousand dollars to support Ukraine. The prominent role of Bishop Yaroslav (Jeri) Rafalko is due to the fact that he became the first Polish bishop in the USA from his native land, Bialystok.
For the representatives of the Ukrainian delegation - Bishop Luka, Professors Alla Puhtetska and Veronika Matvienko, Subdeacon Yaroslav Kacharai - Bishop Yaroslav (Jeri) Rafalko conducted a tour of the premises of his residence in the Cathedral of All Saints in the city of Chicago. This cathedral historically played an important role in the formation of the Polish spiritual center in the city of Chicago. Next to the cathedral is a Ukrainian cemetery where a large number of Ukrainian immigrants are buried.
As a result of the negotiations, it was agreed on the visit of Bishop Luka to the Polish parish of Bishop Yaroslav in Miami, Florida, where a large Ukrainian community lives. This visitation should take place already this Sunday.
Thanking for the fruitful meeting, Bishop Luka, on behalf of His Holiness Patriarch Philaret, presented Bishop Yaroslav with an icon of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The members of the delegation congratulated each other on the beginning of cooperation in God's field with words of thankful prayer, asking God to open human hearts with love for Him and neighbor.