At the invitation of Philadelphia Councilman David Oh, Vicar Bishop of Philadelphia Luke (Zhoba) visited Philadelphia City Hall and the City Council on Monday, April 18, 2022. The Bishop extended the blessing of His Holiness Philaret (Denisenko), Patriarch of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kyiv Patriarchate to Councilman David Oh and his colleagues.
During the cordial, two-hour meeting, Bishop Luke proposed several important projects for the further development of international cooperation regarding support of the people of Ukraine following Russia’s unprovoked military aggression on February 24. The Bishop outlined the preparation and implementation of religious, cultural and educational projects at the local and state levels, and the improvement of policies aimed at developing a constructive multicultural dialogue of nations in the City of Philadelphia.
Specifically, there was a discussion concerning assistance to students and their access to education during wartime and the establishment of educational platforms and resources for Ukraine. Proposals were made to conduct 10-day visits aimed at familiarizing students of different age groups with the activities of law enforcement agencies and the judicial authorities at City Hall in Philadelphia. Such visits would highlight the democratic standards of public institutions in the United States to Ukrainian students who struggle for their right to education and obtaining professional diplomas in extremely difficult conditions.
Bishop Luke further shared proposals on the expansion of cultural, educational and musical cooperation within the framework of volunteer and educational activities at the St. Nicholas Patriarchal Stavropigia Cathedral in Philadelphia, which is the center of the Kyiv Patriarchate in the United States. Plans include charity events, concerts and master classes with the involvement of a wide range of people, regardless of age or nationality. The expediency of developing new areas of interaction at the local level with the involvement of the state, religious organizations, private institutions and charitable foundations was discussed.
Councilman David Oh expressed his friendly support for the Ukrainian people because the personal experience of his family — Korean immigrants from Japan after World War II and the Korean War — has strengthened the high values of the law of God. During the forced escape from the communists, his father survived the bombing of peaceful refugees. Faith in God strengthened future generations. American society, which unites immigrants from around the world, deeply understands and shares the pain, sadness and extremely difficult conditions for the survival of refugees. Consequently, it cannot remain on the sidelines with Russia's aggressive actions against independent Ukraine. In his speech, David Oh stressed that support of the Ukrainian people, and especially Ukrainian youth and students, is a prerequisite for further development, stabilization, modernization and restoration of Ukraine in the post-war period. To support the Ukrainian people and raise funds, cooperation is essential in the short and long-term. Attracting wide groups of the American population to cultural and artistic, educational projects, master classes, improving morale and educating young people could offset negative factors of alcoholism, drug addiction, tobacco smoking and unhealthy lifestyles.
Bishop Luke was presented with magazines and brochures concerning art projects implemented under the authority of the City Council of Philadelphia, and was invited to join these initiatives with the Ukrainian representatives of the delegation - Doctor of Law Alla Pukhtetska and Professor Veronika Matviienko. Their professional credentials were noted along with opportunities for cultural, education and artistic activities within the framework of inter-university cooperation.
In turn, Bishop Luke presented to Councilman David Oh the jubilee edition "Patriarch Filaret - The Way of the Cross for the Sake of the Ukrainian Church", as well as the newsletter of the Vicariate of the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate in the USA and Canada, where photos and articles about the visits of Councilman David Oh to the Ukrainian community in Philadelphia and St. Nicholas Cathedral had been published.
Director of Operations of Mercy Fleet, Mr. Audrius Palionis, who is a representative of the Lithuanian community in Philadelphia, also participated in the meeting and proposed various ways of material support, creation of new jobs with the assistance of municipal services, health insurance, improving interaction and multicultural dialogue in the diaspora, holding charitable events and supporting cultural and educational activities.
Members of the delegation, with appreciation to Ms. Victoria, assistant to the City Council, were given a tour of the historic City Hall building. The construction of the building took place from 1894-1908, a project similar to the Louvre in Paris. The guests visited historic halls and the Caucus, which hosts the final debate of the bills before voting for them in the City Council. Also on the premises of the City Hall are local courts occupying a separate floor. Members of the delegation were impressed by the magnificent wall murals, gold moldings, ancient frescoes, portraits of former mayors and prominent political figures, and the very spirit that affirms confidence in the invincibility of the eternal values of goodness, love and justice.
All participants were invited to a charity concert in St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, and to the “Spring Pierogi Fest” on Saturday, May 14, 2022. Both events will support the Vicariate’s HELP UKRAINE FUND. Future possible projects included cooperation between Theological Institute Philadelphia, a foundation whose goal is to educate, enlighten and engage society in the Orthodox faith and theology, and prominent universities in the City of Philadelphia, including Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Bishop Luke, Professor Pukhtetska and Professor Matviienko extended to City Councilman David Oh sincere gratitude for his hospitality and warm communication and his desire to hear the pain and anxiety of refugees who fled Ukraine to Philadelphia.
God bless You, David Oh!