Kyiv, Ukraine, Mar 3, 2022 / 10:50 am (CNA).
A Ukrainian Catholic leader said on Thursday that Kyiv is “being transformed into the spiritual capital of the world” following yesterday’s global day of prayer for fasting and peace.
In a video message recorded on March 3 in the besieged Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk noted that the world’s attention was focused on the besieged Ukrainian city after Pope Francis’ initiative.
“Precisely in these days, especially after yesterday’s global day of prayer for peace in Ukraine, we perceive that Kyiv is being transformed into the spiritual capital of the world,” he said.
“Today, to this place, the eyes of people throughout the world are turned — of all churches, religions, and confessions. And thus, in a particular way we feel that inscription from the 46th Psalm of David in the central apse of the Cathedral of Saint Sophia: ‘God is in the midst of her, she shall not be shaken; God shall help her right early in the morning.’”
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome, noted that he was speaking on the eighth day of the full-scale Russian invasion of his homeland.
“Today is the first day of a new period: today we enter into the second week of this horrible war,” he said.
The U.N. refugee agency said on March 3 that more than a million people had fled Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on Feb. 24. More than half of them have found refuge in Poland, which shares a 332-mile border with the country.
Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Thursday that her office had “recorded and confirmed 752 civilian casualties, including 227 killed — 15 of them children.”
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands, announced on March 2 that he was opening an investigation into alleged war crimes by Russia.
Russian forces are continuing to advance on Kyiv, where the major archbishop is sheltering with others under the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection.
Shevchuk said that the founding princes of Kievan Rus conceived of Kyiv as a “New Jerusalem.”
He noted that “yesterday representatives of all churches and religions of Ukraine, the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches, gathered together again in the Cathedral of Saint Sophia in order to pray for peace in Ukraine.”
“It is precisely the presence of God in the midst of His City, in the icon of God’s wisdom, that is embodied in the life of our people, in the life of our state,” he commented.
Shevchuk, who has led the global Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church since 2011, when he was aged 40,
The 51-year-old major archbishop lamented the bombardment of Ukrainian cities and the exodus of refugees, as well as the rising number of dead Russian soldiers.
Also on Wednesday, the Catholic bishops of Belarus, Ukraine’s neighbor, issued an appeal for peace. Their statement was significant as the Belarusian government, led by President Alexander Lukashenko, is allied with Russia.
“We sympathize with our southern neighbor Ukraine, which is experiencing tragedy,” the bishops said.
“We support the appeals of the Holy Father Pope Francis and the Apostolic See, diplomatic measures and negotiations between Russia and Ukraine on Belarusian soil with a view to an immediate cessation of hostilities and the search for ways to reconciliation; but in order for the parties to be able to hear each other, it is necessary that the weapon be silenced.”
On Tuesday, the Vatican Cardinal Leonardo Sandri lamented the “unjustified invasion” of Ukraine, reported the Secretariat of the Major Archbishop in Rome.
The prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches was speaking at the end of a prayer service for peace at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Rome.
Pope Francis has sent medical supplies for Ukrainian refugees to the parish, which serves as the national church of Italy’s Ukrainian Catholic community.
Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, visited the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in London on March 2.
“Our thoughts and prayers, however inadequate they may be, are with all of you at this most critical of times,” the Prince of Wales said.
Concluding his message, Shevchuk said: “O God, receive our prayer! O God, preserve Your city! Be in our midst, and then we will not be shaken.”
“O God, before the morning bless us and give Ukraine peace.”
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