Archbishop Borys Gudziak Responds to Ukraine Invasion
The archeparch of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia is currently en route from Ukraine back to the U.S.
In response to several questions the Register put to him about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the archeparch of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, shared on Feb. 25 the following commentary regarding the unfolding conflict in the country.
Archbishop Gudziak, who is currently en route from Ukraine to the United States, was asked about his reaction to the news of the invasion, his reported wish that Pope Francis and the Holy See call out Russia by name, and how much weak Western leadership in a largely de-Christianized West might have helped precipitate the invasion.
The Register also asked him about the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in the conflict, how he saw the conflict resolving, what needed to be done to restore peace, and what Western faithful can do to best support the people of Ukraine.
What was my day like? As I am contemplating before the Lord replies to your questions, I am following the news — Russia’s taking over the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (the personnel are being held hostage) — will this be the beginning of environmental warfare? War is not pretty; war is not pious. Can we bear it?
There are fierce battles along the border with Russia. Russian forces are advancing to the Ukrainian capital ..., the heroic defenders of the tiny Black Sea Serpent Island in the Black Sea. They were warned by Russian navy megaphone announcements to surrender. The border guards responded with a megaphone succinctly: “Russian navy! Go ***yourselves!”
All thirteen were covered and killed by overwhelming canon and rocket fire. About 137 Ukrainians — both military and civilians — who died in the first 20 hours of war. As I am trying to fall asleep, thousands of citizens of Kyiv and Kharkiv are spending this night in the subway stations and bomb shelters hiding from possible bombardment.
Looking for the answers to these and other questions I spoke with different people in Ukraine and globally. For example, a young priest of the Paris eparchy, who serves in the Archeparchy of Philadelphia, who was ordained by me in Lviv 10 days ago in Ukraine to serve in Philadelphia. At this moment, he is waiting for more than 10 hours at the Ukrainian-Polish border to get to the US as all flights from Ukraine have been canceled. The line of cars to the border extends for 10 miles. Through the night he walked for several miles in the cold and darkness along with countless families with small children who hope to find refuge in EU countries as the danger of new attacks is growing. A refugee crisis is upon us.
Given the current circumstances, it is crucial to move past hypotheses and theoretical discussions and rather to focus on what can be done to stop the Russian aggression which is devastating the country and killing its citizens.
Ukraine is under attack. It is as real as the last eight years, but during the recent 20 hours, evil truly manifested itself for the world to see and react to. There are three ways Western nations and people of faith can help right now.
First of all, as people of faith, we believe in the power of prayer. Please pray for Ukraine — not abstractly for “the crisis in Ukraine” or “war in Ukraine” — but explicitly for Ukraine’s strength to resist the foreign aggression. Pray for the dignity and freedom of the Ukrainian people, for the resilience of its army, and for the conversion of the attackers.
Second, stay informed and inform others. There are plenty of news resources with balanced information. Avoid Russian media and its proxies’ propaganda. Share the news.
Third, find ways to help people who suffer. This senseless, ruthless invasion is causing a huge humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Regardless of the political views and personal convictions, solidarity with the victims is always a right choice. Our Archeparchy has established the special fund found here to which you can contribute.
News of the full-fledged Russian war against Ukraine reached me early in the morning in Paris (I am visiting the Paris eparchy on my way from Ukraine to the US, with a brief stop in Rome), and I have spent the day doing the things I have mentioned: praying with the Paris community, giving interviews and commentaries to Catholic and secular media, and calling my friends and colleagues in Ukraine in order to support them and understand the situation from within. Everybody is shocked but there is a general resolve and trust in God’s protection and the Ukrainian Army. Some people are prepared to leave Ukraine, but many enroll to join the Territorial Defense Forces to protect their cities.
Evil should be called by its name. The Pope and the Holy See have been vocal about the situation in Ukraine for many months. Personally, I am grateful to Pope Francis for his support and prayer. He is doing much more than some Orthodox Church leaders, members of whose flocks are dying, who were silent for months. On February 23, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill congratulated President Putin on the occasion of the Day of Russian Armed Forces. This is simply scandalous. In his statement yesterday, Patriarch Kirill wrote: “The Russian and Ukrainian peoples have a common, centuries-old history dating back to the Baptism of Rus’ by Prince St. Vladimir the Equal-to-the-Apostles. I believe that this God-given affinity will help overcome the divisions and disagreements that have arisen that have led to the current conflict.” He was writing this as Russian forces were invading Ukraine and killing Ukrainian people.
These are the days that divide history, that mark epic change. Many brave young men and women yesterday gave their lives for freedom and for God-given dignity. I pray for their eternal repose and for the consolation of their wives, husbands, parents and children.
A sacramental gift at the end of the day: in the house chapel of the Bishop Hlib’s residence in Paris [Bishop Hlib Borys Sviatoslav Lonchyna, apostolic administrator of Saint-Vladimir-le-Grand de Paris], I baptized little Augustin — the son of Father Roman and Tanya Ostapiuk. A new life in Christ, a new hope!
Share hope! Share Christ!
He is among us!