NEW YORK CITY — Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has urged U.S. Catholics to listen to the “chilling” pleas of Greek-Catholic bishops who say Ukraine is “flowing with blood” due to the Russian military’s actions.
During the Cold War, Cardinal Dolan said, “Catholics in the United States were in solidarity with persecuted Christians in Poland, Ukraine, Croatia, Lithuania, Hungary and the other countries under Russia’s jackboot. We spoke up for them; our government listened.”
“We had hoped it would now be different. Things looked so bright in Ukraine for awhile. It appeared that religion was free, the Church encouraging a just, open, civil society,” the New York archbishop said in a Sept. 15 blog post.
“Apparently, a prosperous, free, independent Ukraine, with freedom of religion leading to a revived faith, is a threat to a neighbor with a history of interference. The jackboots have apparently come out of storage.”
Cardinal Dolan praised the Catholic Church in Ukraine as “young, alive, growing and prophetic,” despite the Church being “viciously persecuted” under Stalin and the Soviet Union.
He said Ukraine’s leading bishop, Greek-Catholic Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev, is a “confessor of the faith” and a leader bringing peace and hope to “a country threatened by thugs and thieves within and an aggressor on the border.”
The cardinal linked to a “chilling” Sept. 10 statement signed by Archbishop Sviatoslav, Metropolitan Stephen Soroka of Philadelphia and other bishops gathered from around the world for the annual Greek-Catholic synod in Lviv. Their statement condemned Russian military action in the Ukraine.
The bishops said, “We … raise our voice on behalf of the people of Ukraine and call out to the people of the world: ‘Ukraine is flowing with blood!’
“This peaceful sovereign nation has been subjected to a direct military intervention by a northern neighbor. Hundreds of units of heavy weaponry and technology, thousands of armed mercenaries and soldiers of Russia’s standing army are crossing the borders of Ukraine, sowing death and destruction, in disregard for the terms of the cease-fire and recent diplomatic efforts.
“At the same time, propaganda continues at an unprecedented level of hatred and distortion of the real state of affairs, which is no less damaging than weapons of mass destruction.”
The United Nations has confirmed that 2,729 people have been killed and almost 6,000 injured in Ukraine since fighting began between military forces and rebel groups in April 2014, the British newspaper The Guardian reported Sept. 8. The figures do not include many other deaths, such as those killed in the July downing of a Malaysian Airlines flight, which killed almost 300 people after a suspected missile strike.
The bishops’ letter charged that Russia-supporting forces have committed “crimes against humanity,” including the downing of the plane.
In addition to the thousands of people, including women and children, that have been “recklessly killed,” many of the wounded die from lack of medical supplies, the Ukrainian bishops said.
“Thousands of people are being kidnapped and subjected to torture and public humiliation against their human dignity,” the bishops said, adding that hundreds of thousands of refugees “are being forced to flee their homes due to threats against their lives and the danger of death.”
With winter now approaching, the number of deaths could increase tenfold, they warned.
The Greek Catholic bishops appealed to the international community and “all people of goodwill” to “stop the bloodshed in Ukraine.”
They urged prayers “for the end of aggression and the restoration of a lasting and comprehensive peace in Ukraine.”
Cardinal Dolan said Sept. 15 that Archbishop Sviatoslav urged him to “just keep getting the truth out!”
“Please don’t let us down!” the archbishop told the cardinal.