Catholics in Europe React to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
In a Feb. 24 appeal, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference, said “I strongly condemn the actions of Russia and Vladimir Putin as an unacceptable and shameful act of barbarism directed against sovereignty.”
This story is developing and will continue to be updated.
Catholics across Europe have reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with expressions of solidarity with the Ukrainian people and prayers for peace.
“I strongly condemn the actions of Russia and Vladimir Putin as an unacceptable and shameful act of barbarism directed against sovereignty,” Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference said in an appeal issued on Feb. 24.
“At the same time — together with the whole Church in Poland — I express my solidarity with all Ukrainians, both in Poland and in Ukraine, assuring them of our closeness, prayer and availability to help,” he said.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak, the primate of Poland, called Feb. 24 a “tragic morning” in a message sent to the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
“On this tragic morning, joining in pain and asking God to stop the Soviet occupier, I remember in prayer and cry for peace for the beloved Ukrainian people,” Polak wrote in the text message, according to the Catholic Church in Poland.
Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, the Ukrainian Catholic eparchial bishop of London, urged government leaders and those in positions of power to remain steadfast in support of “the innocent citizens of Ukraine.”
“The day that we have been hoping would never come has arrived. This morning we woke up to hear the news that Russia has unleashed its troops into an invasion of Ukrainian soil as well as firing missiles into Ukrainian territory,” Nowakowski said.
“We place the people of Ukraine under the protection of the Holy Family, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Most Holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, and the holy and righteous St Joseph the Betrothed,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a TV statement early Thursday morning that Russia did not have plans to occupy Ukraine, and demanded that the Ukrainian military lay down its arms.
Shortly afterward, Russian troops crossed the north, south, and eastern borders into Ukraine from multiple points. Ukrainian officials reported shelling and missile strikes across Ukraine, including at airfields and military headquarters near Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv.
Both military and civilian deaths have been reported.
According to BBC News, on Thursday Russian military crossed into Ukraine not only from points on the Russian border, but also from Belarus, a Russian ally.
Bishop Oleg Butkevich, the head of the Catholic bishops’ conference of Belarus, commented that “the world was shaken by the tragic news that a military conflict has broken out between our neighboring countries.”
“I ask that, in peace, we may offer our prayers, both personal and in parish communities, for an end to the conflict as soon as possible and for the least number of victims from the conflict. And that it does not escalate into another world war,” he said.
“Christ tells us: ‘Everything is possible to one who has faith.’ (Mark 9:23-24) God help our unbelief. I also encourage fasting and offering up the sacrifice of suffering for this purpose.”
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, supported Ukraine’s right to defend its independence as Russia attacked Ukrainian military targets on Thursday morning. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the Holy See.
“It is our natural right and sacred duty to defend our land and our people, our state and all that is dearest to us: family, language and culture, history and the spiritual world,” he said.
Ukraine is a country of 44 million people bordering Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.
Fears that Russia was 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.
“At this historic moment, the voice of our conscience calls us all as one to stand up for a free, united and independent Ukrainian State,” Shevchuk said.
“The history of the last century teaches us that all those who started world wars lost them, and the idolaters of war brought only destruction and decline to their own states and peoples.”