Cardinal-elect Aguiar in Ukraine 

By Francesca Merlo and Svitlana Dukhovych

Jul 20 2023

Cardinal-elect Américo Aguiar, Auxiliary Bishop of Lisbon, and President of the World Youth Day Foundation, visits Ukraine to be close to the young people, especially those who will be unable to attend the celebrations in Lisbon at the beginning of August.

Cardinal-elect Américo Aguiar, the auxiliary bishop of Lisbon and president of the Lisbon 2023 WYD Foundation, who will soon be elevated to the rank of cardinal during the Consistory on 30 September, returned from Ukraine on 18 July.

The war-torn nation witnessed the Cardinal-elect’s visit to various cities, including Bucha and Irpin, where he met with groups of young people who were on a pilgrimage to the Marian shrines of Zarvanytsia and Berdychiv.

These encounters were deeply moving, according to Cardinal-elect Aguiar, who shared with the young people the embrace and support of Pope Francis and the Universal Church, especially those who would be unable to attend the WYD event in Lisbon.

It was evident that the prelate himself received a great deal from these encounters, having wtinessed the courage of these young people, their unwavering testimony of faith, and their resolute hope.

Visit of encounter

Speaking to Vatican News’ Bernardo Suate, Cardinal-elect Aguiar shared his experiences from Ukraine, and his efforts to show the Church’s solidarity with young Ukrainians.

Pope Francis had previously urged the Cardinal-elect to extend the WYD invitation to all young people, including those who would be unable to be physically present.

Despite some initial misgivings, he said, Cardinal-elect Aguiar said he was reminded of Pope Francis’ words and felt compelled to say ‘yes’, and expressed gratitude to God for leading him on this mission.

During his visit, Cardinal-elect Aguiar was filled with joy as he witnessed the presence of Christ in the lives, suffering, and difficulties of the Ukrainian people. He emphasized the importance of bearing witness to the living Christ to humanity, as, he said, removing God from our hearts leads to cruelty, evil, lies, death, violence, and war. 

Reminder to dream

When asked about his meetings with young Ukrainians, Cardinal-elect Aguiar spoke about the sweetness of encountering them “in the heart of the Mother”, referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

He described it as a special and joyful experience, in which the young people felt loved and cared for. He also highlighted Pope Francis’ encouragement for the youth to dream and be poets, even in the challenging context of war.

He drew inspiration from the courage and joy he witnessed in the eyes and hearts of the young Ukrainians, as they displayed a readiness to be active participants in their own lives and in the pursuit of peace for Ukraine.

Remembering conflict at WYD

Finally, regarding World Youth Day in Lisbon, Cardinal-elect Aguiar mentioned ongoing efforts to understand and address the concerns of young Ukrainians who have been affected by the war.

The goal, he said, is to avoid causing further pain or discomfort and allow time and prayer to bring the gift of peace. 

Cardinal-elect Aguiar expressed his intention to pray for peace, and emphasized that the presence of both Ukrainian and other war-affected youth from around the world would be a central focus of the WYD event in Lisbon. – Vatican News