Rome, Italy, Jun 3, 2022 / 16:50 pm (CNA).
Marking 100 days since Russian forces invaded his country, the Ukrainian Catholic bishop of Kyiv has called for continued prayer while warning against what he called a “naive pacifism” that would accept peace at any cost.
“During the 100 days of the war, Ukraine and the entire international community underwent a transformation of mutual relations. Ukraine has been seen as a victim of war and at the same time as a partner worth helping,” Bishop Vitaliy Kryvytskyi of the Diocese of Kyiv-Zhytomyr said in a telephone interview June 1.
“Many of those who previously did not know where Ukraine was, now know well such places as Bucha, Irpin or Mariupol,” he added.
“This war, which we did not want, has made us all much more mature. The war forced us to look at many things with new eyes. It changed our relationships. People who lived around us, who were not our friends, became our brothers overnight,” he said.
June 3 marked 100 days since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that “at least tens of thousands” of Ukrainian civilians have died so far, but independent verification of casualty figures on either side of the conflict is difficult to obtain. Russia has officially acknowledged that a little more than 1,300 of its soldiers have died so far, though Ukrainian and Western observers believe the number is considerably higher.
Nearly 7 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave the country at some point since the fighting began, and an estimated 2 million have crossed back into Ukraine, according to a report by NPR, citing data from the United Nations refugee agency. Millions more have been displaced from their homes to other parts of Ukraine.
Kryvytskyi, the Kyiv bishop, spoke about these mass migrations in his interview.
“In some regions of western Ukraine, and in Kyiv, people are returning to their homes, stores and offices are open, but in eastern Ukraine fierce fighting continues. The situation is very difficult. Many people are dying. The whole Ukraine is suffering, and the specter of famine threatens the whole world,” he stressed, referring to disruptions in grain and other food exports from Ukraine due to the war and the shutdown of the country’s ports.
This suffering breeds hatred, the bishop warned, which only compounds the evil nature of war.
“In spite of these tragic events, we cannot let ourselves be possessed by hatred. Hatred kills us,” Kryvytskyi said.
At the same time, however, “peace at any cost” is not a workable approach to the crisis, the bishop emphasized.
“People have long since stopped talking about peace at any cost. They speak about victory. Giving up part of Ukraine in the name of peace will not bring a real end to the war, it will only freeze the conflict. Naive pacifism will not change the situation,” he said.
“We still see the effects of such actions today. The surrender of Crimea, which was supposed to prevent war, has only postponed it. If today Ukraine agreed to voluntarily give up part of its territory, it would thereby agree to postpone in time the next phases of the invasion.”
Kryvytskyi also responded to criticism that Pope Francis and the Holy See have not spoken out more forcefully about Russia’s actions, and about Russian President Vladimir Putin more specifically.
“I also see much love for Ukraine in the Vatican’s actions and in Pope Francis’ prayer for our suffering people. Those who criticize the actions of the Vatican and the attitude of the Holy Father do not listen to his teaching in its entirety, they are only guided by judgments based on sentences often inadvertently torn out of papal teaching,” he said.
“I try to approach these situations with a certain understanding of the Holy Father but I cannot demand the same from other people who may not know this broad context,” he added.
Are those outside Ukraine losing interest in what is happening there? Kryvytskyi acknowledged that this is a real concern.
“After a hundred days, one can notice the fatigue of the mass media, too. At times it seems that some people feel there is too much Ukraine on the internet and in the pages of newspapers. However, the war is not over. It is still going on. People may want to forget about it, but this will not make the war end,” he said.
“What we need most today is persistent prayer. A prayer that is not just a symbol, but a tool that works miracles. We experience them every day. In connection with the prolonged conflict in eastern Ukraine, it seems that this prayer is weakening. Please, let us not stop praying for Ukraine,” the bishop appealed.
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