Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests in front of a church in Lviv, Ukraine, in 2018. | Shutterstock
As internally displaced Ukrainians flee the Russian bombardment of their cities, Catholic parishes in the country have turned into “humanitarian hubs,” the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said on Tuesday.
In a video message on March 22 from the embattled Ukrainian capital, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk thanked Catholic parishes in the regions of Kyiv, Zhytomyr, and Vinnytsia for working “to deliver humanitarian aid where it is really needed.”
“Today, I would like to especially thank our pastors and volunteers who are tirelessly serving their people in these weeks and days,” Shevchuk said.
“Looking into the eyes of our priests, our pastors, our volunteers, in their eyes I saw the victory of Ukraine, because they are working for it, they live for it, they live in our very churches themselves,” he said.
The major archbishop said that he had visited priests in the Kyiv archeparchy who are helping internally displaced refugees from other parts of Ukraine.
“I saw a priest spending the night in the sacristy next to the holy altar, and with him are all the volunteers who are trying to serve, while the whole church is filled with humanitarian aid and people are constantly pouring in to get what they need,” he said.
The Ukrainian Catholic leader has released daily video messages since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine 27 days ago.
His latest message came as Ukrainian and Russian forces fought in the suburbs of Kyiv, where he lives. The city authorities have imposed a 35-hour curfew, asking residents to shelter at home or underground until Wednesday morning.
The war in Ukraine has caused more than 10 million people to flee their homes and resulted in at least 953 civilian deaths, according to the United Nations.
The U.S. Embassy to Ukraine said on March 22 that Russian forces illegally removed 2,389 Ukrainian children from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, citing the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry as its source.
Shevchuk explained that, while the “unjust, cruel, bloody, and deadly” war wages on around him, he was placing his hope in the power of God.
“Today we pray that the Lord God might together with the spring sun send peace to Ukraine,” he said.
“May the war stop! May the Lord God bless our land with His love and His peace. Let us pray for those who have suffered from the war. Let us help those who are fighting for life. Let us pray for Ukraine!”