National Catholic Reporter

The Independent News Source

As battles rage, Catholics in Ukraine request Independence Day prayers

  • Ukrainian soldiers march along a street during a rehearsal for the Independence Day parade in Kiev Aug. 20. The parade will take place Aug. 24. (CNS/Reuters/Gleb Garanich)
 | 
Vatican City

As Ukrainians prepared to mark their Aug. 24 Independence Day under the cloud of fierce fighting in the East, Catholic leaders condemned the threat to Ukraine's territorial integrity and prayed for a speedy end to the hostilities.

At the same time, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic church, issued a rebuttal to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow's claims that that the Ukrainian Catholic church and its priests were fomenting hatred and violence against believers who belong to the Orthodox church affiliated with Moscow.

Kirill had made the claims in an Aug. 14 letter to the patriarchs and heads of Orthodox churches around the world and in a similar letter Aug. 18 to the United Nations, the European Council and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

In reply, Shevchuk wrote Aug. 21 to the world's Catholic bishops' conferences and global political leaders saying the fighting in eastern Ukraine was the result of "foreign-supported destabilization, separatism and terrorist activity."

"The tragedy that Ukraine is experiencing today, due to military aggression, is a tragedy for all peoples, believers of all faiths and all social groups," he said. "Buildings, churches and monasteries of all religious and ethnic groups are being damaged or destroyed."

rectangular-logo.jpgVisit our new website, Global Sisters Report!

In Crimea, annexed by Russia in March, and in the eastern regions controlled by pro-Russian separatists, he said, "some of the churches and religious communities have been targeted for discrimination, enduring outright violence."

Muslim Tartars are most at risk, he said, but Ukrainian Catholics, Latin-rite Catholics, Jewish communities and members of the independent Orthodox Church have "been menaced."

All those communities, Shevchuk said, "are further endangered by the rhetoric of the Orthodox leadership in Russia, which is becoming increasingly similar to the propaganda of Russian political authorities and leadership."

"Russian Orthodox leaders spread libelous information about Greek Catholics and other confessions, thereby putting them in danger from the separatist militants who identify themselves as warriors for Russian Orthodoxy," the archbishop said.

In preparation for Independence Day commemorations, both Shevchuk and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv, president of the Latin-rite bishops' conference, released statements urging their people to pray for peace and stability in their country.

Mokrzycki described the situation, 23 years after independence from the Soviet Union, as an emergency provoked by a "lack of understanding and agreement among Ukrainians" and "encroachment" by neighboring Russia.

He urged Catholics to pray, through the intercession of Mary Queen of Peace, "that all who influence the fate of Ukraine, including us, would open the door of our hearts to know the truth that can free us from the snares of evil and lead to a happy life."

Shevchuk's message, which was to be read at parishes Aug. 24, insisted on the right of Ukrainians to live in peace and security in their own country.

"In these most difficult times," he said, Ukrainians have responsibility "for the preservation and strengthening of the gift of freedom" for which their elders and ancestors struggled for so long, including at the cost of their lives.

Celebrating Ukraine's independence, he said, "let us pray to the Lord for peace in Ukraine" and the protection of its peoples, begging God to "stop the bloodshed, grief and tears in our land."

The archbishop also prayed that all citizens would "see the image of the suffering Christ in all those who have lost their homes or been forced to leave their land" and in all those who have been wounded or captured.

NCR Comment code: (Comments can be found below)

Before you can post a comment, you must verify your email address at Disqus.com/verify.
Comments from unverified email addresses will be deleted.

  • Be respectful. Do not attack the writer. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the original idea will be deleted. NCR reserves the right to close comment threads when discussions are no longer productive.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report abuse" button. Once a comment has been flagged, an NCR staff member will investigate.

For more detailed guidelines, visit our User Guidelines page.

For help on how to post a comment, visit our reference page.

 

Feature-flag_GSR_start-reading.jpg

NCR Email Alerts

 

In This Issue

September 12-25, 2014

09-12-2014.jpg

Not all of our content is online. Subscribe to receive all the news and features you won't find anywhere else.