Cardinal Dolan Talks Ukraine, Refugee Relief, Russian Invasion

The cardinal recently visited displaced persons and refugees in Ukraine and border countries including Poland and Slovakia.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan. (photo: Stephen Driscoll/CNA / EWTN)

The efforts to help Ukraine’s refugees are an inspiration, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has said at the conclusion of his visit to the region. However, he is still discouraged by the “raw evil” of the Russian invasion and worried about worse to come in the future.

Over 5 million refugees have fled Ukraine, and 3 million “have been embraced by Poland alone,” Cardinal Dolan told Colm Flynn of EWTN News In Depth in an interview broadcast May 2.

The cardinal recently visited displaced persons and refugees in Ukraine and border countries including Poland and Slovakia.

“In addition to those who have left the country, for safety and security, there are people displaced within Ukraine itself,” he said, comparing the magnitude of the emergency to a tsunami.

The cardinal praised “the magnificent resources that are available to help the refugees.” His social media posts have praised the refugee assistance from the Archdiocese of Krakow, the Order of Malta, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, the Knights of Columbus, and many more groups.

Cardinal Dolan said he took inspiration from “how smoothly, how well-oiled, how beautifully choreographed” the aid effort for Ukrainians is proceeding.

“I kind of feared that we would find panic and we’ve only seen serenity,” he told EWTN News In Depth.

“Now they are quick to say, well now it’s been almost two months. At the beginning it was kind of emergency and panicky. Now the flow of refugees has been tempered,” Cardinal Dolan said.

In contrast with the inspiring effort to help refugees, he said thinking of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “tempts me to discouragement.” The invasion was “raw evil” that made him think, “how can this tyrant get away with this?”

Cardinal Dolan recounted a man of about 20 in Lviv, whose village had been bombed.

“Ever since then he just sits quietly. You can see that he’s shattered. Physically he’s fine, but inside he’s in turmoil,” the cardinal reported.

There are also other refugees determined to survive.

“We’ve seen intense suffering but we also see people who are resilient and hopeful and they’ve got a grit about them. And that gives me confidence as well,” he said.

“The people of Ukraine have a Ph.D. in suffering. They’ve always been attacked,” Cardinal Dolan said. “Unfortunately, they are experienced in suffering.”

“So they know that the suffering will be intense. But they know that ultimately, truth and goodness and beauty will prevail. And this gets them through,” he added.

Many Ukrainians recently celebrated Easter Sunday. Flynn, Cardinal Dolan’s interviewer, noted that people still came out to celebrate Easter in a time of war.

“In the face of that raw evil how can people keep that resilience and their faith?” Flynn asked Cardinal Dolan.

“Let the people of Ukraine teach us,” the cardinal answered. More than one Ukrainian refugee has told him that the war is not good, but if it had to happen, it is “providential” that it happened during Lent. This is a time, Cardinal Dolan said, “when we think of the suffering, the Passion, the death of Jesus, when it looked as if darkness and evil and death had conquered, and then found the glory of his resurrection on Easter.”

“These Ukrainians said to me ‘we know by our faith, that He wants us to go through that too. We know that the resurrection will come’,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal Dolan said that while the Catholic Church could always do better in advocating for peace, he was grateful for what the Church is doing.

In his view, there are three ways that Christian believers can help. The first is prayer.

“We never ever, ever, underestimate that, the power of prayer,” he said. 

And Christians should engage in advocacy, meaning they should “stand up” for those who are affected and “speak against the atrocity.”

Finally, Christians must work to aid the victims and give assistance.

“That’s when we’ve got a winning recipe,” he said.

Russian Orthodoxy has thrown support behind Putin and the Ukraine invasion. In Cardinal Dolan’s analysis, this reflects a dangerous fusion of religion and nationalism.

“Whenever in history you have religion and nationalism united, you’ve got trouble,” he said. While patriotism is a virtue, nationalism is a vice, an “excessive allegiance to one’s country, even over God.”

For Cardinal Dolan, it is “very difficult to understand” how religious leaders or Putin could look to their faith to justify this.

The cardinal said he was grateful that Christianity has “a God who cries,” and, he added, “he cries at this.”

“As Pope Francis has said, to use devotion or allegiance to a nation, to use that to justify a war, is idolatry. And it violates the first commandment. And he’s right,” said Cardinal Dolan.