Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk © Aid to the Church in Need

War in Ukraine? Leader of the Eastern Greek-Catholic Church, the Most Numerous in Communion with the Pope, Responds

His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk asks if “as a shepherd of this suffering people: is it possible to sacrifice millions of Ukrainians suffering atrocities at the hands of the Russian occupiers for a so-called peace? Can I sacrifice my communities and be calm, while our Church is banned in the occupied territories? “Can I sacrifice our priests kidnapped by the Russians, about whom we have not heard anything for a year?”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

(ZENIT News / Rome, 06.02.2024).- Christmas and Christian life in Ukraine during the war: how to have hope between bombs, drones and the enemy at the door or in one’s city? What is the future of Catholics when the battles end? His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and Archbishop of Kiev talked with the Italian newspaper Il Foglio, reflecting on the Catholic community’s living of the faith amid the war.

“The dark hour,” as Pope Francis called it, needs the hope that God is with us. His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk explains: “Of course, it’s not the same to celebrate Christmas in Ukraine as in Italy, but the Russian bombs don’t stop our faith and hope in the Lord of peace. For us, today’s Christmas is not only an invitation to be together with our families.”

“For two years,” the Archbishop recalled, “the Ukrainian people has defended itself courageously from the large-scale Russian aggression. The civilian population of our country is constantly subjected to attacks with Russian missiles and, almost two years after the start of the war, we are experiencing the worst humanitarian emergency in Europe since World War II. There are no families in Ukraine that haven’t suffered a bereavement. We are paying a very high price for our freedom and I believe, also, for the democratic future of the whole European Continent (. . . ). There is a certain satiety of Europeans and anti-American sentiments come into play, which help Russian propaganda to continue the extermination of our people and wage war against the West (. . . ). Human suffering cannot become a mere subject of geopolitical, economic or military games.”

The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholics, the most numerous Eastern Church in communion with the Rome, said that “There are those that pose the hypothesis of the freezing of the war or the acceptance of territorial concessions to the conflict. But as Pastor of these suffering people, I respond: Is it possible to sacrifice millions of Ukrainians suffering atrocities at the hands of the Russian occupiers for a supposed peace? Can I sacrifice my communities and be at peace while our Church is banned in the occupied territories? Can I sacrifice our priests kidnapped by the Russians, of whom we’ve  known nothing for a year? I am convinced that to freeze the war in Ukraine in the heart of Europe means to give Russia’s criminal regime the opportunity to regroup to attack again with even more ambitious objectives.”

Addressing the subject of Ukrainian nationalism, of which the country is accused, Archbishop Shevchuk said: “The subject of Ukrainian nationalism has been promoted by Russian propaganda for decades, to annihilate Ukraine. For years the Russian stations have been broadcasting messages about the Fascist regime in Ukraine and then they found the legitimate pretext to invade Ukraine (. . . ) I’m surprised that inside the Catholic Church there are those that transmit this propaganda (. . . ). The Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church , including at the official level, has condemned radical nationalism as an ideology that inspires hatred towards other peoples.”

In regard to the Russian Orthodox Church, the leader of the Greek-Catholics said that “The pain of the war has united many Christians in Ukraine. Christian solidarity in face of the evil of the war transcends all limits of Confession or division. Hence, the Churches and religious organizations in Ukraine seek to cooperate to respond to the challenges that the war poses us daily. In regard to the Orthodox Church, linked to the Patriarchate of Moscow, I must point out that this Church is experiencing great unease in Ukrainian society (. . . ). When the Patriarch of Moscow justifies and invites the Russian people to war against Ukraine, the Ukrainian Government considers it necessary to revise the activity of the Orthodox Church in our country, linked to this Patriarch (. . . ) The Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate has been isolated from society. For example, this year will be the first Christmas that Ukraine will celebrate on December 25, and no longer on January 7, as continues happening in Russia.”

In another part of the interview, His Beatitude Shevchuk stressed that “We are a gravely wounded people in soul and in body. Each one of us bears the trace of this terrifying war in our souls and many have imprinted its marks in their bodies, as the result of serious injuries and traumas. The pastoral objective that our Church has set itself in the coming years is care of the war’s wounds. I’m very grateful to those Pastors of ours who didn’t abandon their flocks, but shared with their people their sufferings and sadness, their anxieties and fears, and in circumstances of mortal danger, they were a sign of the loving and invincible love of God in the midst of His People. “

Finally, in regard to the wounds, he answered: “I must say that the wounds of this war are very profound and painful. The scars it has left on the suffering bodies of the Ukrainian people will last a long time, and only the Lord will be able to pour the holy oil of His merciful love capable of healing them. But even today, we don’t want to be slaves of hatred. Although hatred is a normal reaction to the evil we are suffering, we cannot yield to it and, even less so, let it conquer our hearts.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Rafael Llanes

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation