Catholic Archbishop of Lviv Says God Will Have Last Word on Russia Conflict
The Latin Rite archbishop of Lviv, western Ukraine’s largest city, spoke with CNA. ‘Rest assured, our prayers can change the course of this conflict.’
A Catholic archbishop has emphasized God’s power over Ukraine’s worsening crisis with Russia, urging people to continue to pray for peace.
“The general public and the media are focusing only on the human factors of this equation: political leaders, diplomats, strategies, armies ... but at the end of the day, God will always have the last word,” the Latin Rite archbishop of Lviv, western Ukraine’s largest city, told CNA.
“Whatever [God] permits, will be the decisive factor,” he continued. “That is why we cannot stop begging for prayers time and again and from all the world, as Pope Francis continues to do. Rest assured, our prayers can change the course of this conflict.”
Fears that Russia is beginning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine were heightened this week after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he would recognize the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk as independent entities.
The eastern regions, which are run by Russian-backed separatists, include land currently held by the Ukrainian armed forces.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said on Tuesday that Russia’s recognition of independence for these areas had put humanity in danger.
“Today all of humanity has been placed in danger — that the powerful have a right to impose themselves on whomever they wish, with no regard for the rule of law,” he said in a Feb. 22 appeal.
Archbishop Mokrzycki told ACN on Monday that, “as long as people are still talking, there is a glimmer of hope.”
“War does not bring any solutions, only destruction, suffering and lack of peace,” the 60-year-old archbishop added.
Originally from Poland, Archbishop Mokrzycki has led the Lviv Archdiocese since 2008. He served as John Paul II’s deputy personal secretary from 1996 until the Polish Pope’s death in 2005. He then spent two years as secretary to Pope Benedict XVI.
Ukraine is a country of 44 million people bordering Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. Around two-thirds of the population are Orthodox Christians.
Europe’s second-largest country by area after Russia is home to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the biggest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See.
There are also other Catholic communities in Ukraine, including the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church, the Armenian Catholic Church, and the Latin Church.
Thirty years ago, when Ukraine declared independence from the Soviet Union, the structures of the Latin Church were renewed. Today, it has seven dioceses, three major seminaries and three theological institutes.
Archbishop Mokrzycki said the Catholic Church all across Ukraine was preparing for the possibility of a wave of Ukrainians to be displaced from their homes, especially from the eastern area.
“We are ready to welcome people into our churches and provide them with food and water,” he said. “We have organized first-aid courses for priests, religious and laity, so that in an emergency they can care for the wounded.”
Some eastern Ukrainians have already moved to the west, he said, and, in anticipation of possible refugees, “we have already rented some empty houses that will provide accommodation for them.”
The archbishop added that the prayers and support of people around the world had profoundly moved him.
“We are most grateful to the entire universal Church, and especially to Pope Francis, who has issued a worldwide appeal for prayer for Ukraine,” he said. “I would like to repeat this appeal: Continue this prayer. Keep on praying, until the final peace comes.”
The Russo-Ukrainian War began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The conflict has claimed more than 14,000 lives and driven 1.3 million people from their homes, according to Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities.
In July 2020, the parties agreed to a cease-fire, but in recent weeks, Putin has sent at least 150,000 troops to the Ukrainian border.
During his weekly general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis appealed to believers and nonbelievers alike to pray and fast for peace in Ukraine.
The Pope said on Feb. 23: “I invite everyone to make next March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace. I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”