A shining blessing: Bishop offers uplifting visit for Sharon church

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Jul. 24—SHARON — St. John's Ukranian Orthodox Church brightened the city Friday — both in terms of spirit and luminescence.

Archbishop Daniel Zelinsky, one of the faith's top U.S. officials, was on hand to bless the church's new dome.

"The dome looks like a candle, a bright light, a beacon to invite people to visit us here in Sharon," Zelinsky said.

Onion-shaped domes are a physical signature on many Orthodox churches. St. John's old dome had been in disrepair before a new one took its place last week.

Zelinsky's diocese is huge, covering the entire United States west of Scranton, Pa.

A native of Ukraine, he arrived in the U.S. in 1996 to further his education. He eventually became a chaplain in the U.S. Army.

His true calling, he said, isn't tending to administrative jobs.

"We want to spread the word of God," Zelinsky said, referring both to himself and followers of the Orthodox faith.

Like followers of most ethnic faiths in the United States, members of the Ukranian Orthodox church keep close watch of politics in their mother country. Bishop Zelinsky's visit, planned long in advance, comes during rough relations between the U.S. and Ukraine.

Ukraine had hopes for better relations with the United States after President Joe Biden took office in January.

Former President Donald Trump was accused of holding up military aid for Ukraine while pressuring Ukraine's government to investigate the family of then-former Vice President Joe Biden, who was seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Crimea, which Ukraine still considers part of its nation, was annexed by Russian force in 2014.

But Bishop Zelensky said there has been little improvement between the U.S. and Ukraine since Biden became president in January.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy implored Biden to meet in June before the U.S. president's June summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva.

But there was no meeting between Biden and Zelenskyy, and Biden met with Putin as planned.

The Biden administration said it intended to invite Zelenskyy to the White House in July. But that isn't going to happen either.

On Wednesday, Biden's office announced a meeting with Zelenskyy to meet on Aug. 30 with the president.

The bishop said that was unfortunate.

"We're very disappointed in the action the White House took," Bishop Zelinsky said, whose last name is pronounced the same at the Ukrainian president's but spelled differently.

But the bishop's primary objective Friday was to bless St. John's. From a bucket that lifted high above the roofline toward the heavens, he said prayers to usher in a new era for the church.

"The dome is going to do some preaching for this parish," he said with a smile.

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