Catholic Leaders Respond to Invasion of Ukraine

Damage from explosion in Ukraine.
Image reportedly showing damage from a missile strike in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Following President Putin’s decision to recognise the independence of the self-declared Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, Russian troops launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February. Church leaders and organisations have issued various statements in response to the crisis. A compilation of these, alongside a selection of relevant news articles, can be found below.

If you are interested in providing accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, please see the GOV.UK website. The Jesuit Refugee Service has produced a useful FAQ for those considering becoming a host. For updates on how CSAN is coordinating the Catholic community’s response in England and Wales, please visit its dedicated webpage. It will be a useful tool for those wishing to assist Ukrainian refugees in the coming months. If you wish to make a financial contribution to help the people of Ukraine, please consider giving to the following appeals:

Bishops

Catholic Organisations

Ukrainian Catholic Church

Vatican

Other

From the first weeks of the invasion…

Bishops

Archbishop of Southwark visits volunteers. Archbishop John Wilson visited volunteers at the White Eagle Club in south London on Ash Wednesday to witness how the Polish community is responding to the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine. Armed with essential supplies, he saw donations of clothes, pillows, duvets, toys and sanitary products stacked from floor to ceiling. Read the article here.

British and Irish bishops appeal for ‘spiritual and practical’ support. In a statement on 4 March, the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales, Ireland, and Scotland appealed to Catholics to “sustain the prayer and self-denial of Lent as a constant offering to God, begging for an end to the pointless violence in Ukraine”. The bishops asked Patriarch Kirill and all in the Russian Orthodox Church to join with them in solidarity. They also called on the British and Irish governments to “offer an open and generous welcome” to Ukrainians seeking refuge from the violence.

English bishops write to Foreign Secretary. Eight Bishops representing the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales have written to Liz Truss MP to welcome the government’s “resolute defence of Ukraine’s sovereignty and opposition to Russia’s invasion.” Stressing how important the Ukrainian Greek Catholic community is to the Church in our country, the Bishops asserted the importance of providing humanitarian assistance, especially the need to offer “sanctuary to people who are forced to flee their homes.” Read the letter here.

Bishops of European Union “deeply worried” about escalation. COMECE President Cardinal Hollerich has issued a statement describing war as “a grave affront to human dignity”, asserting that it “has no place in our continent”. Reiterating Pope Francis’ concerns, he appealed to Russian authorities to “refrain from further hostile actions that would inflict even more suffering and disregard the principles of international law”. Regarding the emerging humanitarian situation, he urged “European societies and governments to welcome refugees fleeing their homeland”.

Cardinal Nichols calls for cessation of Russian “onslaught”. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has called for an immediate end to the Russian attacks in Ukraine and for the protection of innocent civilians. He said that the “international community must unite in seeking an end to this conflict through peaceful means, including dialogue and negotiation, as the only way forward.” Cardinal Nichols will be celebrating Mass in Westminster Cathedral at 10am on Sunday 27 February for these intentions.

European Bishops: “In the name of God, stop now!” On behalf of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), President Archbishop Gintaras Grušas issued a statement from Florence, Italy. The city is currently hosting the groups’ “Mediterranean: Frontier of Peace” meeting. Appealing for peace in Ukraine, the CCEE called for an “immediate end to the Russian aggression and to do everything possible to protect innocent women, men and children” in the country.

Catholic Organisations

CAFOD joins DEC’s appeal. CAFOD has joined with the Disasters Emergency Committee in its appeal to bring help in a rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis. The UK Government will match donations from the public up to £20 million, meaning that any support you could provide will go even further. To make a donation, click here.

Caritas appeals for opening of humanitarian corridors. Caritas Internationalis is asking for an immediate opening of humanitarian corridors to allow for the safe passage of thousands of vulnerable people fleeing violence. Speaking on a video conference, Caritas Secretary General Aloysius John said “last week the life of Ukrainians became a nightmare” with men, women, and children forced to flee the country, leaving everything behind. John reiterated Caritas’s mission to remain on the front lines. Solidarity, he said, “is an act of hope.”. Read the article here.

ACN Emergency Appeal. Aid to the Church in Need is committing €1 million in emergency aid to support the work of the Church in Ukraine. The funding will meet the essential needs – including heating, lighting, water and food – of 57 priests and 54 members of religious communities, enabling them to continue their vital ministry. Responding to the news, Bishop Honcharuk of Kharkiv said: “People need consolation, strength and support. The immediate emergency grant by ACN, in addition to its current support, will strengthen the Catholic Church in Ukraine in its commitment to stay on the ground and keep serving its flock in the face of military and economic war.” You can contribute to the appeal here.

Caritas Ukraine on the front line. The President of Caritas Ukraine, Tetiana Stawnychy, has posted a video asking for solidarity, prayers and support. Reacting to the invasion, she said: “The events which began early this morning will inevitably lead to a colossal humanitarian catastrophe. It is impossible to believe that in the 21st century, in the centre of Europe, people have to wake up at 5am from explosions and the sound of air raid sirens.” The Caritas Confederation has launched an emergency appeal to provide food and water, accommodation, hygiene kits and transportation to reach loved ones and safe areas. Watch the appeal or make a donation.

CAFOD response to the crisis. In a statement, CAFOD has said that it is “deeply disturbed” by the invasion and is standing in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. It is calling for an “urgent diplomatic solution and a lasting ceasefire to prevent further suffering”. Regarding the growing humanitarian crisis, CAFOD highlighted the work being done to assist civilians by Caritas Ukraine (see above). CAFOD is also encouraging people to pray for the people of the country.

Ukrainian Catholic Church

I’m British by birth, but Ukrainian in spirit. Archbishop John Wilson spoke passionately to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic community in the UK about the disastrous consequences that war has brought to Ukraine. He had been invited to preach at the Divine Liturgy at the Cathedral in London on Sunday 27 February. Expressing the Church’s solidarity with the Ukrainian people, he said: “I am British by birth; but like so many people across the globe I have become Ukrainian in spirit. We are one with you. We are one with you in faith, one with you in prayer, one with you in grief, and one with you in hope.” You can read his remarks here.

Ukrainian Cathedral visited by Prime Minister and Prince Charles. Over the last week, the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in London has been visited by both Boris Johnson and Prince Charles. On Sunday 27 February, the Prime Minister attended an evening liturgy and delivered an address (watch) in support of Ukraine. A few days later, Prince Charles and Camilla met people from the Ukrainian community at the Cathedral. The Prince of Wales said that he and his wife were “deeply moved” and he praised “extraordinary bravery, generosity and fortitude of the Ukrainian community in the face of such truly terrible aggression”.

Major Archbishop appeals for prayers. On 22 February, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, appealed to Ukraine’s Catholics at home and abroad to pray “for those who defend Ukraine”. Speaking of President Putin’s decision to recognise the self-declared republics, he said: “Irreparable damage has been done to the very logic of international relations, which are called to safeguard peace and the just order of societies, the supremacy of law, the accountability of state powers, the defence of the human being, human life and natural rights. Today all of humanity has been placed in danger — that the powerful have a right to impose themselves on whomever they wish, with no regard for the rule of law.” You can read his remarks here.

Ukrainian Bishop urges British government to support Ukraine. Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, Eparchial Bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in the UK, addressed his community and all people of good will following the invasion. In his statement, he thanked all those in Britain who have prayed for and stood with the country. He called on the UK government to “remain steadfast in support of Ukraine” against those who are waging war upon its innocent citizens.

Vatican

Holy See ready to facilitate negotiations. Speaking to Italian journalists, the Holy See’s Cardinal Secretary of State said that it was ready to “facilitate negotiations between Russia and Ukraine”. Addressing the possibility of the conflict spreading to other European countries, he asserted it “would be a catastrophe of gigantic proportions”. To avert this danger, Cardinal Parolin stated that “there is a need to avoid any escalation, stop the clashes and negotiate.” Read the article here.

Holy See stresses importance of humanitarian corridors. Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, has stressed the importance of humanitarian corridors to ensure the safety and protection of thousands of people fleeing ongoing hostilities in Ukraine. Speaking at the ‘Joint Launch of the Humanitarian Flash Appeal and the Regional Refugee Response Plan for Ukraine’, he said that “protecting civilian populations, as well as humanitarian personnel, in accordance with international humanitarian law, must be the priority.” Read the article here.

Ukraine asks Pope to speak with Putin. The Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, has urged Pope Francis to speak to Vladimir Putin about establishing humanitarian corridors. Speaking live on Ukrainian TV, she said that she hoped the conversation will take place.

Cardinal Parolin statement on Ukraine. The Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, issued a video statement on the day of the invasion. Reflecting on events, he said the “tragic scenarios that everyone feared are becoming a reality”. However, he emphasised that “there is still time for goodwill, there is still room for negotiation” to “spare the world from the folly and horrors of war”. Cardinal Parolin went on to say that, as believers, “we do not lose hope for a glimmer of conscience on the part of those who hold in their hands the fortunes of world.”

Day of Fasting for Peace. At the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis expressed his heartfelt pain over the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. He appealed to those “with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war”. The Holy Father urged everyone to make 2 March, Ash Wednesday, a Day of Fasting for Peace. He said: “I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.” The Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York have also voiced their support for the Pope’s initiative. Read the article or watch the video.

Holy Father to Ukrainian Catholic Church: “I will do everything I can”. On Friday afternoon, Pope Francis called Major Archbishop Shevchuk and assured him that he would do everything he can to help end the conflict. The Holy Father praised him for staying among his people and making the basement of his Cathedral available as a shelter. Read the article here.

Pope visits Russian Embassy to the Holy See. In an extraordinary move, Pope Francis visited the Russian Embassy on 25 February to “express his concern about the war”. Ordinarily, diplomatic protocol would summon ambassadors to the Vatican. This unusual intervention is a sign of the Pope’s determination to appeal for an end to the conflict personally. The Holy See’s press office confirmed that Pope Francis was at the embassy for “just over a half-hour”. Read the article here.

The image used in this article was uploaded to Wikipedia by Arikkel under the CC-BY-SA 4.0 Licence.