Rome, Italy, May 16, 2022 / 12:05 pm (CNA).
The two branches of Caritas in Ukraine have helped almost 1.5 million people since Russia’s full-scale invasion. But the aid they have offered so far is “just the beginning,” according to Tetiana Stawnychy, president of Caritas Ukraine.
Speaking at a live-streamed press conference in Rome on May 16, Stawnychy said: “We’re still responding to these initial lines of people from areas where there’s heavy fighting, and there’s that need for an initial response.”
“In some centers, we’re already settling down, people are settling down, and we’re having to already go a little bit deeper. But it’s only the beginning.”
“And I wanted to point that out, because this is going to be a long haul, a long road, and we hope for the accompaniment to continue.”
Caritas Ukraine, which offers humanitarian assistance through the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, oversees an office in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol where seven people were killed under Russian tank fire.
The country’s other Caritas organization is Caritas-Spes, the charitable mission of Ukraine’s Latin Rite bishops.
Both groups belong to the international network overseen by Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based umbrella body.
Caritas Internationalis said on May 16 that the two organizations in Ukraine had combined to help “nearly 1.5 million people who have been displaced following the escalation of the violence and unrest within the country.”
Caritas groups are also active in neighboring countries, where more than six million Ukrainians have fled since Feb. 24.
In Poland, which has welcomed over three million Ukrainian refugees, Caritas’ diocesan network has delivered over 1.5 million meals to more than 500,000 people.
Speaking at the press conference, Father Vyacheslav Grynevych, the executive director of Caritas-Spes, underlined that the war’s effects will be felt for many years to come.
He said: “It’s difficult to imagine the end of the war… The picture of war will remain with us our whole life. But I know that there is medicine — the medicine of the Church — the medicine of love, of hope, and it is our vocation as a Caritas family to share this with people close to us.”
The Pallottine priest, who has used social media to raise awareness of the plight of civilians under bombardment, said that he spoke with Pope Francis for around 30 minutes on May 15.
“It is important to see that people would like to hear you, would like to know your experience,” he said.
He added: “We share also information with the pope that at this moment, our bishops, our priests, they are volunteers of Caritas. We all are Caritas. In our churches, we have magazines of humanitarian aid, and we told that we have good cooperation, we have unity, and the pope said: ‘It is what I want.’”
“Yes, it was very beautiful. It is the face of our Church. And I think that many times Pope Francis uses these words about the ‘Chiesa in uscita,’ the Church goes forward. And I think it’s our experience, our reality now.”
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