By Mark Abrams
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in America, based in Philadelphia, has fond memories of one of two popes who will be elevated to saints in the Roman Catholic Church this weekend during ceremonies at the Vatican.
Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka recalls he was just a seminarian when Pope John Paul II visited the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Franklin Street in North Philadelphia on Oct. 4, 1979.
“He came in, he knelt, he prayed. Everyone knelt and prayed at the same time with him. That solid feeling of oneness as Catholic Church with your spiritual father, the Holy Father, praying together, all the people. I remember that being such a powerful experience for me.”
Soroka says years later it was Pope John Paul II who would appoint him archbishop in charge of the Ukrainian church in the U.S.
The archbishop says Pope John XXIII also is worthy of sainthood for the heroic life he led, including helping to secure the release in 1963 of a patriarch of the church who had been held in Soviet prison camps for 18 years.