Use any cliche you want about time passing quickly and you’ll find that it is true, even truer than you thought. I came to Paris what seems like yesterday and what was, in fact, a month ago. What I have been doing is what I want to share.
Paris, like any large city, has a huge immigrant community. Ukrainians here number about 400,000, about 60% of them without papers. The men work in construction and the women as domestics. The community is secure enough to be able to celebrate its own presence and stable enough to have two parishes, one in the very center of the city and the other just outside.
Two weeks ago Ukraine celebrated its independance day, most recently from the Soviet Union in 1991. In a small but significant ceremony in the garden of the Cathedral of Saint Volodymyr on the Boulevard St-Germain, flowers were laid at a monument to one of Ukraine’s great poets Taras Shevchenko, the national anthem was sung and food and fellowship followed, then to be followed in turn by prayer.
And then something quite beautiful made possible by the internet. We, here in Paris, at 5 o’clock, took our turn in singing the Ukrainian prayer equivalent of “God bless America”. The hour before it was sung in the Cathedral in Kiev and an hour after us it would be sung somewhere else circling the globe with prayer and hope for the future of Ukraine.
If there is one outstanding virtue of this people it is hope. They know what they have endured and still their faith gives them hope. In charity we can join them praying that peace comes to them as it should to everyone, especially the Peace that the world cannot give itself.
Fr Michael Perry