Firefighters work on a building after bombings of the eastern Ukraininan town of Chuguiv  (AFP or licensors)

By Francesca Merlo

Mar 1 2022

In a videomessage, Major Archbishop Sviatislov Shevchuk of the Greek Ukrainian Catholic Church, speaks of the strength of the Ukrainian people, and offers help to the relatives of the Russians who may have lost their lives after entering Ukraine.

In a video message, the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), Sviatoslav Schevchuk, sends “words of blessing from our first-throned city, from the capital of Ukraine, our dear Ukrainian Kyiv.”

Five days of cruelty

He opens his message by noting that today, Monday, “we are experiencing the fifth day of a crooked, inhumane, vicious war”. He describes the last few days as being filled with the “heroism of our soldiers” and the “courage of our people”.  Even the elderly, he continues, “laid down before tanks to prevent them from entering their village and city”. He said they have seen the “beastliness and cruelty of those who are killing us”, claiming that Russian forces have put women and children on tanks and are using them “as human shields in order to bring death and devastation into the heart of Ukraine”.  

Still standing

Despite this, Major Archbishop Shevchuk continues, “we are standing”: “We are standing in prayer for our military, for our homeland, for our long-suffering Ukrainian people, among whom already today, according to the information of the United Nations, we see 400,000 refugees after fewer than five whole days”. 

Archbishop Shevchuk then noted that for Eastern Christians who follow the Gregorian calendar, Monday marks the first day of Great Lent. “I can promise you”, he said, “that this Lent will be very special for you.” He adds, “We are walking together to Pascha – Easter”, he explained, and “there will be a Pascha, for our Pascha is our Lord, the Risen Jesus Christ”. 

Pope Francis’ support

He recalled Pope Francis’ appeal for Ukraine during his Sunday Angelus, when “he condemned those who, starting a war against other nations, are fighting against their own nation”. He expressed his gratitude to the Holy Father, who “supports us, prays for us, and desires to do everything to stop this war”.

The International community

Archbishop Shevchuk then expressed his gratitude to all those wishing to help Ukraine, and who are doing so through various organisations and events. He asks, especially, that we do “everything to stop this aggression, to stop the war”. Even when this seems impossible, he continues, “even when diplomats, lawyers, leaders of nations say this is very difficult, let’s pray that the Lord God, the Lord of Peace, grant wisdom so that the aggression may be stopped through dialogue”.

Diplomacy and dialogue

The alternative to war is diplomacy and dialogue, says Archbishop Shevchuk. With that in mind, he stressed, “may dialogue and diplomacy conquer war”.

Bringing his video message to a close, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevuck expressed his support for an initiative created by volunteers called “Return Alive from Ukraine”. He explained that this is a hotline for relatives of Russian soldiers who, today, “as our enemies, entered Ukrainian land”. If someone from Russia has lost contact with their children or husbands who were sent to Ukraine to kill, he stresses, “call that number. We want to help you find either the bodies of your dead or your sons who might still be alive and return them to you from Ukraine”.

Finally, Archbishop Shevchuk prays that the Lord “send peace into the hearts of the nations”. May He stop the war, he stresses, and “may He help us to see peace in Ukraine”. -Vatican News