Is the viral video of the Blessed Sacrament traveling through Kyiv fact or fiction?

Shannon Mullen   By Shannon Mullen for CNA

 

A screenshot from a video from Ukraine that went viral on March 12, 2022 during Russia’s attack on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. / YouTube

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Mar 15, 2022 / 15:30 pm (CNA).

The scene in the video is solemn and inspirational, and has resonated with Catholics around the world.

As a vehicle carrying the Blessed Sacrament makes its way through the streets of Kyiv, people genuflect and bow their heads in a moving display of piety, reverence, and wartime solidarity.

The video, set to dramatic Ukrainian folk music, purports to show the transfer of the Eucharist from the Greek Catholic cathedral in Kyiv to a bunker for safekeeping from missile attacks and Russian forces closing in on the Ukrainian capital. But was that really the case?

A Twitter user identified as Krzysztof Wasilewski, a U.K.-based Catholic deacon and pharmacist, posted the video on March 12. The post was captioned: “Transfer of the Blessed Sacrament from Kiev Cathedral to a bunker the last time was in WWII Impressive People Kneeling in Adoration #PrayforUkraine.” The tweet has since garnered more than 2,800 retweets and more than 10,000 likes.

“I’m not even catholic, but I find this incredibly moving. The people of Ukraine are truly awe inspiring. Beautiful. #StandWithUkraine,” one tweet read.

But the now-viral video is not what it seems. No such transfer of the Blessed Sacrament has taken place, as far as CNA can establish. Instead, the video appears to show a Ukrainian military funeral procession that took place years ago, long before the current Russian invasion.

“This is not a procession with the Holy Gifts. It carries the body of slain soldiers who defended the homeland,” a Ukrainian journalist based in Kyiv told CNA. “The video features a song that Ukrainians sing when they say goodbye to folk heroes.” The journalist, who requested anonymity, has been providing daily dispatches about the war for St. Rita’s Radio, an EWTN radio affiliate in Norway.

Red flags
While the initial tweets about the video generated a groundswell of praise and prayers directed at the suffering people of Ukraine, the video also raised questions.

Why move the Eucharist from the Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ in Kyiv in the first place? The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, along with other church leaders, had taken refuge from Russian missile attacks on the city in a safe space beneath the cathedral — why not bring the Blessed Sacrament there?

And if it had been necessary to transfer it to another location, would the motorcade have met with such spontaneous reactions from passersby along the route — in a minority-Catholic city?

Even after other Twitter users began to sleuth out the answers to some of these questions, people continued to share the video. “Catholic or not, this is supposedly fake,” one tweet read. “Just shows how easily humans are swayed when preyed on their emotions.”

One Twitter user, apparently misreading a translated document, insisted that the video showed the funeral procession for a Ukrainian pilot killed in 2018. But it turns out out that the same video was posted to YouTube in 2015, as noted by Twitter user Colin Kreuzer on March 14. You can watch the full 2015 video below.

Wasilewski, whose tweet went viral, told CNA on March 15 that he had received the video, with the description about the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament, from fellow Catholic deacons in an online faith forum.

Was he disappointed or upset that the video wasn’t what he thought it was? The most important thing, he said, is to pray for Ukraine.


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