A Ukrainian priest, whose family has recently moved to Cork, has thanked the Irish people, saying they have kindness in their way of life.
Father Roman Biletskyy, a priest of the Byzantine Rite, which is also known as the Greek Catholic Church, arrived in Ireland two weeks ago with his wife Dahlia and their six children, and they have been given a home by the Roman Catholic parish in Fermoy.
The family has moved into the former convent of the Little Company of Mary, known affectionately in Fermoy as “the Blue Nuns”, which had been recently renovated to accommodate refugees fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Fr Biletskyy spoke with The Echo before a Chrism Mass, which is a ceremony in which Catholic priests renew their vows, concelebrated by Bishop of Cloyne the Most Reverend William Crean in St Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh.
The Byzantine Rite is in communion with Rome, and recognises Pope Francis as its supreme pontiff; and Fr Biletskyy was welcomed to the Cloyne diocese during the Mass, receiving a warm round of applause from the congregation.
Fr Biletskyy said he and his family had been staying in Ballinacurra since they arrived in Ireland, and they were overwhelmed by the kindness shown to them by Irish people.
He said he and his family loved their new home in Fermoy, and he thanked the local parish priest, Fr Brian Boyle, and everyone who had welcomed them.
Unlike their Roman Catholic brethren, Greek Catholic priests are allowed to marry and to have families.
“Our oldest child is 15, and the youngest one year and two months,” Fr Biletskyy said. “We have six children, almost a football team.”
When warned that winters in Ireland are not as cold as in Ukraine, but can be damp and dreary, he said he knew what to expect.
“I already got an idea about the weather, but the weather is not the biggest enemy of humans, unfortunately. The biggest enemy of humans is often humans.”
Fr Biletskyy said that although the Catholic Church in Ireland was not as strong as it had been, Christianity was engrained in Irish people.
“In Ireland you show your Christianity in the way you make strangers welcome in your home, and give refuge to people who have been attacked,” he said,
“In Ireland, I think, you have kindness in your way of life.
Bishop Crean said that it was “most likely” that Fr Roman would be able to carry out priestly duties in Fermoy.
“When a priest comes to a diocese they get faculties to celebrate the sacraments, and it is envisaged that he will get faculties to celebrate Mass in Fermoy,” the bishop said.
Fr Brian Boyle, parish priest of Fermoy, said Fermoy people had been “extraordinarily generous” in making Fr Biletskyy and his family welcome in the town, and he thanked those who had helped prepare the former convent, among them the St Vincent de Paul Society.
“We preach the gospel at Mass about loving your neighbour, and this is putting that into practical terms, to help people during war, building a nest for them until it's time for them to go again,” Fr Boyle said.