On 3-5 May, with the support of the Communion of Protestant Churches in Europe, the bishop of GELCU Pavlo Shvarts paid working visits to Vienna and Bratislava.
The first two days in Vienna had a full schedule. The GELCU’s history doesn’t only go back to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Russian Empire, but also to those evangelical communities that existed in Galicia as part of the Habsburg Empire. Therefore, this visit was not so much of establishment, but rather a renewal of spiritual ties.
Meetings with the Bishop of the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Austria Michael Chalupka and other members of the Higher Council of the Church, as well as Maria Katarina Moser, the director of the “Diakonia Austria” Church Charitable Foundation, were of an introductory nature. Bishop Schwartz had the opportunity to speak directly about the situation in Ukraine and extended the invitation to cooperate with communities in the Western regions of Ukraine. “I ask our friends not to focus only on short-term but also on long-term projects since the consequences of the war will be long-lasting”, he urged. At present, the “Diakonia Austria” together with the World Lutheran Federation, supports the service of our refugees in the countries of the European Union at the Ukrainian border.
One of them is Slovakia, which Pavlo Shvarts visited the next day. The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia has already received 1,200 refugees from Ukraine, helped even more at the border, and provided extensive financial assistance. On May 5, the minister met with the General Bishop of the Church, Ivan Eľko, and the Bishops of the Western and Eastern Ecclesiastical Districts – Peter Mihoč and Ján Hroboň. The latter participated in the blessing of Pavlo Shvarts for the bishop’s ministry in 2019.
During the meeting, they discussed issues of distributing humanitarian aid in places of active military action. Pavlo Shvarts pointed out that: “True service to the neighbor begins when the person realizes that they are a helpless sinner and only God can give them strength.” He shared the plans for two major projects: the Church’s psychological assistance and help for the unemployed. Representatives of the Church in Slovakia have promised to purchase medication, in particular for the needs of patients with psychiatric diagnoses, and to transfer them to accessible regions where there is most need.
During his visit, the bishop met with the General Secretary of the Communion of Protestant Churches of Europe Mario Fischer, with whom he shared the desire of GELCU to join the Communion as an independent national Church and gave four interviews to the local media. Many thanks to the CPCE and personally to Mario Fischer for organizing this visit!