Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has decried continued violence in the country’s capital city and called for an end to the bloodshed.
His comments came in response to violent clashes between anti-government protesters and police in the capital Kiev last night.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the protests were “getting out of control”.
The protesters have been camped out in the city since late November, angered by the government’s decision to form closer alliances with Moscow and reject a planned treaty with the EU.
“In the name of God, stop the bloodshed!,” Patriarch Shevchuk said in a statement published Jan. 21. “Violence was never the way to build a free and independent state! Bloodshed will never reconcile hearts or bring a positive outcome.”
He said he and others are looking on recent events in Kiev with “great dismay and sadness” and he appealed “to all the faithful of the church, the Ukrainian people, and to all people of good will” to stop the violence.
He called on the Ukrainian authorities to listen to the people and not use violence or repression, and he urged political leaders to realize their responsibility for the future of their people.
The Patriarch appealed to citizens to also “go back to the peaceful nature of the protests” and not let “emotions get the better of you.”
“Neither fear nor aggression nor anger was ever helpful in determining our future,” he said.
The Ukrainian church leader also appealed to the country’s judges not to tarnish their honor with unjust decisions, and to Christian leaders to “watch over the souls entrusted to you.”
“Reach their hearts and minds with your words of peace. Proclaim the Gospel of Christ’s peace,” he said.
“I call everyone to prayer for peace in our country. May the Lord of peace, the Lord who has given us his peace be with you all,” the Patriarch said in closing.