The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church speaks about the situation in war-torn Ukraine during an online event organized by the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, which saw the participation of Cardinals Leonardo Sandri and Michael Czerny.
March 31, 2022
The consequences of the bombings in Donetsk
By Lisa Zengarini
The ongoing brutal aggression by Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “war of total destruction” and has no justification, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halyc said Tuesday (March 29).
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church made the stark remarks from Kyiv during an online workshop organized by the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome. He was the keynote speaker at the event titled “The Role of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the Context of the War”.
A view of war from another angle
The session was an opportunity to learn about the situation in the country and the work done by the Church for refugees, internally displaced people and all those who have been plunged into poverty because of the war. So far, the conflict has forced some 13 million people to leave their homes for safer places, in Ukraine or abroad.
The Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyc was invited to give an overview of the current situation in Ukraine from a different point of view, that of the suffering local Eastern Churches. His description was dramatic.
Destruction and humanitarian catastrophe
He said that since the start of the invasion on February 24, some 1,300 rockets have been launched by Russian forces into Ukrainian territory. The bombardments of towns and villages targeting infrastructure, residential areas and even hospitals are constant and devastating, especially in the martyr city of Mariupol, but also in Kharkiv, Chernihiv and kyiv, among others.
In his testimony, Major Archbishop Shevchuk claimed that humanitarian aid is prevented from entering Mariupol, resulting in many also dying of starvation.
He also referred to the alleged forced deportations to remote parts of Russia of thousands of Ukrainian citizens which, he said, remind us of the darkest years of Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union.
The Church at the service of people
However, the Ukrainian Prelate expressed his pride in the fact that priests and bishops remained to help their people, and the courage Ukrainians showed in resisting the Russian invasion. “We wonder how to save people? How do we help people? How to bring help to the weakest? “, he said. “We never imagined that the basements of our cathedrals would become bomb shelters.”
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church also reiterated his gratitude to Pope Francis and the Holy See for their support and for “having done everything possible to stop this massacre of innocent people in Ukraine”.
Referring to the Pope’s Act of Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, His Beatitude Shevchuk said that this gesture was also appreciated by many Orthodox faithful: “This consecration to our Mother , this presence, this force of the Immaculate Heart among us is really important”, he underlined.
Archbishop Shevchuk concluded his moving speech with words of hope.
Also participating in the event were, among others, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and Cardinal Michael Czerny, Acting Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who was sent as envoy pontifical on the Ukrainian border twice since the beginning of the war.
In his introductory remarks, Cardinal Sandri noted that the month-long war in Ukraine is a “sad return to the past”, not only for Ukraine, but for Europe and the whole world “which seems have learned nothing, even from recent history”. , the horror caused by the ravages of war and the blind and destructive madness of arms”.
The Vatican Prelate underlined the role played by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the Church as a whole in the context of the war, recalling the closeness and support of Pope Francis to all those who suffer in the conflict.
Cardinal Sandri therefore expressed his sincere hope that peace, justice and the rules of international law will be restored as soon as possible and that the wounds left by the conflict will be healed.
Cardinal Czerny, for his part, spoke of what he called attention to the “heroic angels of welcome” he had encountered during his recent trips to Hungary and Slovakia where many refugees are arriving. Ukrainians.
“We like to call them ‘angels’, those who do their best to help strangers in difficulty, often remaining anonymous,” he says. They are “families of priests as well as men and women religious, celibate priests and bishops, and many lay volunteers”.
“Those who offer care and welcome are certainly hero angels, but they are not the only ones,” Cardinal Czerny added. “Scripture encourages us to look deeper and recognize that those who come, flee, take refuge, may also be angels in disguise. The Letter to the Hebrews warns us: “Do not forget hospitality; some, practicing it, have welcomed angels unannounced,’” he said.—Vatican News