Ukrainian Priest: ‘Why Do We Have to Suffer So Much?’

The cri de coeur of Father Roman Syrotych, the director of Caritas Kyiv, deserves our heartfelt prayers in response.

The interior of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus in Rome.
The interior of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus in Rome. (photo: Emporostheoros / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Why? This is the one question our friends and affiliates in Ukraine confronted me with today. In EWTN News’ Vatican Bureau, we have been in touch with our colleagues in Kyiv since the Russian attack began. But an email our Ukraine office sent over the weekend touched me especially deeply: “People who want and love to live, enjoy, do art, play sports, grow their careers,” says Father Roman Syrotych, the director of Caritas Kyiv. “Why do they have to suffer so much today?”

I don’t have the answer. What else to do but pray? The Vatican Bureau was quick to help organize and broadcast a prayer vigil for Ukraine on Friday. The small Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of Sts. Sergius and Bacchus was packed that evening, the day after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The Pope’s vicar for Rome, Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, led the prayer while thousands around the world watched live on TV and social media. “We are here to ask God, with all our strength, to give us peace,” he said.

On the same day, Pope Francis, who had already called for prayer and fasting for peace on Ash Wednesday, went further and visited the Russian embassy to the Holy See. It’s on the same street as our office and not far from St. Peter’s Basilica. Still, customarily, ambassadors go to the Holy Father — he does not go to them. But the situation in Ukraine seemed pressing enough to confront the Russian ambassador directly.

At least Pope Francis has tried. What steps will we take? What will we do to help those under attack?

The words of Father Roman stick with me: “Why are our wonderful Ukrainian cities and our homes on fire? … Why should our smart children sit in basements, subways, garages, because of the artillery shelling? World, you can stop it!”

I am sorry, Father Roman, but right now I cannot stop it. But I can pray, and I ask anyone who reads this to join me in prayer. We will pray for you, Father Roman, and for the children and their parents in the basements. We will pray for those who have died and will die, and for peace, and for forgiveness, because we still have not understood that no earthly gain is worth the cry of a mother losing her child.

Prompted by the beautiful copy of a miraculous Ukrainian icon in the cathedral where we held the vigil yesterday, we say: Our Lady of Zyrowice, pray for us.