(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 25.11.2022).- Nine months after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pope Francis sent a letter to the Ukrainian people, dated November 25. Moreover, this morning the Pontiff received in audience the Apostolic Nuncio in Russia, Monsignor Giovanni d’Aniello. Days earlier, on November 17, the Pope granted an audience to Monsignor Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, Archbishop of Kiev of the Latins (diocese of Roman Latin Rite of the Ukrainian capital).
Here is the Pope’s letter translated into English.
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Dear Ukrainian Brothers and Sisters,
Unleashed in your land nine months ago was the absurd madness of war. In your skies, the sinister roar of explosions and the ominous sound of sirens wail ceaselessly. Your cities are hammered by bombs, while the raining of missiles causes death, destruction and pain, hunger, thirst and cold. Many have had to flee from your streets, leaving homes and dear ones behind. Every day, along with your great rivers, rivers of blood and tears flow.
I would like to unite my tears to yours and to tell you that no day passes without my being close to you, carrying you in my heart and in my prayer. Your pain is my pain. I see you today, suffering from the terror unleashed by this aggression, on Jesus’ cross. Yes, the cross that tortured the Lord lives again in the tortures found on the corpses, in the common pits discovered in several cities, in those and in so many other bloody images that have entered our souls, which make us cry out: Why? How can men treat other men like this?
There come to mind many tragic stories. In the first place, those of the little ones. How many dead, wounded and orphaned children, torn from their mothers! I cry with you for each little one that, because of this war, has lost its life, such as Kira in Odessa, or Lisa in Vinnytsia, and as hundreds of other children: in each one of them all of humanity is defeated. Now they are in God’s bosom. But how can one not feel anguish for them and for those, little ones and grownups, who have been deported? The pain of Ukrainian mothers is incalculable.
Then I think of you, young people, that to defend your motherland courageously have had to take up arms instead of having the dreams that you cherished for the future. I think of you, wives, who have lost your husbands and, biting your lips, you go on in silence, with dignity and determination, doing all sacrifices for your children; of you, adults, who try in every way to protect your dear ones; of you, the elderly, that instead of a serene sunset have been thrown into the dark night of war; of you, women, who have suffered violence and bear heavy burdens in your heart; of all of you, wounded in your soul and body. I think of you and support you with affection and admiration for the way you face such harsh trials.
And I think of you, volunteers, who spend yourselves every day for the people; of you, Pastors of the holy People of God, who — often with great risk for your own safety — have stayed close to the people, bringing God’s consolation and the solidarity of your brothers and sisters, transforming creatively the places of the community and convents into shelters where you offer hospitality, relief and food to those that find themselves in difficult circumstances. I also think of the refugees and internally displaced, who are far from their homes, many of which have been destroyed; and of the Authorities, for whom I pray. On them has befallen the duty to govern the country in tragic times and to take decisions with the vision for a future of peace and to develop the economy while so much vital infrastructure is destroyed, both in the city as well as in the countryside.
Dear brothers and sisters, in all this sea of evil and pain — ninety years after the terrible genocide of the Holodomor –, I am astonished by your good ardour. Despite the immense tragedy you are suffering, the Ukrainian people have never been discouraged nor surrendered to compassion. The world has recognized an audacious and strong people, a people that suffers and prays, that weeps and fights, that resists and hopes: a noble and martyred people. I continue to be close to you, with my heart and my prayer, with humanitarian concern, so that you feel accompanied, so that you won’t get used to the war, so that you don’t stay alone today and, above all, tomorrow, when the temptation can come to forget your suffering.
In these months, in which the harshness of the weather makes even more tragic what you are living, I would like the affection of the Church, the strength of prayer, the love that so many brothers and sisters of all latitudes feel for you, be caresses to your faces. In a few weeks it will be Christmas and the sting of suffering will be felt even more. But I would like to return with you to Bethlehem, to the trial that the Holy Family had to face on that night, which seemed only cold and dark. Instead, the Light came, not of men but of God, not of the earth but of Heaven.
May His and our Mother, the Virgin, watch over you. In union with the Bishops of the world, I consecrate to Her Immaculate Heart the Church and humanity, especially your country and Russia. I present to Her Mother’s Heart your sufferings and your tears. To Her who, as a great son of your land wrote, “brought God to our world,” let us not tire of asking Her for the longed for gift of peace, with the certainty that “nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37). May She fulfil the expectations of your hearts, may She cure your wounds, and give you Her consolation. I am with you, I pray for you and I ask you to pray for me.
May the Lord bless you and the Virgin protect you.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, November 24, 2022
Translation of the Spanish version of the Italian original by Virginia M. Forrester