Here is a Jan. 24 message from the president of Canada’s bishops to Sviatoslav Shevchuk, archbishop of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church; and Lawrence Huculak, O.S.B.M., Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop of Winnipeg, Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in Canada
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Your Beatitude Sviatoslav, Your Grace Lawrence,
The entire world is watching Ukraine in hope and trembling, solidarity and prayer. Over the past weeks, we have seen news stories and read reports of the efforts of the people of Ukraine to manifest their dignity and freedom, protect their human rights, and ensure just and peaceful relations with both West and East, while retaining their inherent responsibility to be the makers of their own destiny.
Canadian hearts are close to the people of Ukraine. Our two countries share much in common – the immigration of several hundred thousand Ukrainians to our nation over the years; the commingling of Ukrainian heritage and traditions — Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Jewish – as part of our own national soul and identity; the presence of Ukrainian Catholics as the largest Eastern Catholic Church in our country; the exchanges between our Conference and your Synod of Bishops.
The current crisis in Ukraine makes us particularly attentive to the pertinence of the words of Pope Francis earlier this month to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. “Everywhere, the way to resolve open questions,” he said, “must be that of diplomacy and dialogue… ‘the moral force of law’… over the ‘material force of arms’… [with] courage ‘to go beyond the surface of the conflict’ and to consider others in their deepest dignity, so that unity will prevail over conflict and it will be ‘possible to build communion amid disagreement’.”
On behalf of all the Eastern and Latin Bishops of Canada, I ask you to assure the people of Ukraine that Canadian Catholics and their Bishops are united with you in prayer and solidarity. We plead for the guarantee of all rights and liberties in Ukraine, particularly the right to life and dignity, freedom of conscience and religion, and liberty of expression and self-government. We urge both police and demonstrators there to remain peaceful and avoid bloodshed. We are in solidarity with your priests and deacons who at great personal risk accompany the demonstrators through prayer and pastoral care. We ask our own political leaders to continue prevailing upon Ukrainian authorities to find constructive and just solutions to the present crisis, and to ensure a democratic process that respects the rule of law and protects minorities and all citizens.
Let us ask Mary, who bore and protected the Light of the World, to intercede for us with her Son, the Prince of Peace. May we all be united with our Ukrainian Canadian martyrs, Blessed Bishop Nikita Budka and Blessed Basil Velychkovsky, both of whom suffered and died as a result of government repression, in praying for Ukraine in this its latest chapter of a long and painful struggle for freedom and democracy.
United with you in prayer and solidarity,
Archbishop of Gatineau
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops