Ukrainian Catholic leader: ‘Our spiritual heritage is being destroyed by bombing’

CNA Staff   By CNA Staff


The ruined Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin, built in 1862, in Ukraine’s Zhytomyr region. / FB Olga Rutkovskaya.

Kyiv, Ukraine, Mar 9, 2022 / 07:47 am (CNA).

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said on Wednesday that Ukraine’s spiritual heritage is “being destroyed by bombing.”

In a video message issued on March 9, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that “priests are being killed” amid fighting in the north, south, and east of Ukraine following Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24.

“Our spiritual heritage is being destroyed by bombing. Churches, our spiritual values, cultural treasures. Priests are being killed, volunteers, all those who try in some way to ease the suffering of this Ukrainian nation flowing with blood,” he said.

The major archbishop, who is based in the besieged capital city of Kyiv, stressed the unity among religious bodies in Ukraine, a country with a population of 44 million people before the war.

He noted that the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations (UCCRO), a body bringing together “95% of all religious communities in Ukraine,” has condemned the shelling of civilians.

In a March 8 statement, the council said: “Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale military invasion of the sovereign territory of Ukraine, we are seeing firsthand how Russian invaders resort to the most cynical and prohibited by international humanitarian law methods of warfare. ”

UCCRO’s members include representatives of Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Muslim communities.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 9, 2022.

Shevchuk said: “Today all of our communities, all our parishes of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, are being transformed into centers of social service.”

“Where there is war, where bombs are falling, in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, in Mykolaiv, we are striving to do everything — on the one hand, to rescue the civilian population and, on the other hand, to deliver humanitarian goods, to provide our people with food and medicine, to get them out of the combat zone.”

“In other parts of Ukraine, innumerable centers are being opened where we are receiving internally displaced people, and providing them with the necessary assistance.”

The 51-year-old major archbishop noted that papal envoy Cardinal Konrad Krajewski is currently visiting relief centers for civilians in Ukraine.

He said that the Polish cardinal’s presence made it “possible to feel that closeness of the Holy Father to the suffering of the Ukrainian people.”

Shevchuk concluded his message by reciting verses by the 19th-century writer Taras Hryhorovych Shevchenko, who he described as a “great prophet of the Ukrainian people.”

He said that the work of Shevchenko, who was born on March 9, 1814, “has always helped us to regain our strength, and thus to realize God’s plan for our people.”

His quotation from Shevchenko concluded: “Keep marching on: there glory lies; / March forward — that’s my testament.”

“May these words about the march towards glory be today a light of hope for our Ukraine,” the major archbishop said.

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