Pilgrimage to the city of St. Nicholas

screenshot026Glory to Jesus Christ!

Dear Clergy, Religious, and Faithful of the Archeparchy,

Every Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States has an icon of our most beloved Saint Nicholas. All of our children have prayed to his icon for his help. This fervor is increased by the connection to the giving and receiving of gifts during the Christmas celebration honoring the birth of Jesus Christ. For children, Saint Nick is remembered because he is a saint who answers their prayers for presents under the Christmas tree.

The icon and stories of the generosity of Saint Nicholas of Myra are given to us as a model to follow in our lives. These vary from giving gold coins to poor young women for their dowry, to the giving of his life to the service of the Church. As one of the bishops who gathered for the Council of Nicaea in 325, he helped define our understanding of church and of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should thank him and the other church fathers each time we recite the Nicene Creed during the Divine Liturgy.

In October of this year, a Byzantine Metropolitan Pilgrimage group journeyed to Bari, Italy to visit the resting place of Saint Nicholas. In my many years of travel to Italy for retreats and the work of the Church, I have always dreamed of praying at the tomb of Saint Nicholas. Bari is not an easy place to visit because it is a day’s ride over the mountains to the Southeastern corner of Italy. We were able to make the trip and to celebrate the Divine Liturgy in the crypt church of the Basilica of Saint Nicholas.

As does every Byzantine Catholic child, I too gazed upon the icon of Nicholas in our home and church. I was impressed by the story of the transfer of his relics to a place called Bari in the year 1087. I always imagined Bari as a small fishing village on the coast of the Adriatic Sea on the East coast of Italy. The Basilica of Saint Nicholas is located in the ancient part of the city which is preserved. There are two altars for the celebration of liturgies: one for Catholic and the other for Orthodox pilgrims. The Saint has blessed the city of Bari with growth. A metropolitan area with a city of over one million people now surrounds the Basilica.

A miracle continues at the tomb to this day. His relics exude a rose scented liquid called manna or myrrh. The myrrh is collected on the feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6th each year. During this visit, we received myrrh which will be distributed to each of the four Byzantine Catholic Churches in the United States. Even if you are unable to make a pilgrimage to Bari to visit the final resting place of the Saint, you may receive his blessing by being blessed with the myrrh at our celebrations of his feast day this year.

We also visited the Benedictine Monastery at Montecassino, Rome, Assisi, and Venice. In Rome, we met with the Holy Father and the heads of our Congregation for the Eastern Churches. They assured us that the process for new bishops for Parma and Toronto is proceeding. Please continue to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in this process.

For young and old, the time of the Philip’s fast prepares us for the celebration of Christmas. As always, we are called to let go of things which hold us back and to become more like the holy Saint. Like the blessed Saint Nicholas, each of us is called to give more than we receive. We are called in a special way to give to support those who are in need.

Sincerely yours in Christ,




Most Reverend William C. Skurla, D.D.
Metropolitan Archbishop of Pittsburgh