Russo-Ukraine War Wound Reopens, China Cracks Down and Queen Elizabeth Departs

YEAR IN REVIEW: World Report

Elisabeth Fürst
Elisabeth Fürst (photo: Public Domain/Shutterstock/Courtesy of Stift Heiligenkreuz/)

The latest stage of Russian aggression against neighboring Ukraine and China’s continued campaign of squelching human-rights activists dominated the world stage in 2022. The United Kingdom, and the world, paid a tearful farewell to Queen Elizabeth II, whose 70-year reign came to an end with her Sept. 8 death. Given these tragedies, the year wasn’t without its lights of hope as well.

Russia’s full-scale invasion into Ukraine in February generated sorrow on three fronts. From a human-rights perspective, Russian attacks were not limited to military targets, as strikes killed civilians while taking out electrical power and other utilities. As of early December, the United Nations put the number of confirmed casualties at 6,702 killed and 10,479 wounded, but estimates of total casualties are much higher. The attack was almost universally condemned.

The hostilities led to sharp increases in prices on raw materials, cereal grains and fuel sources around the globe. Gasoline prices in the United States soared in some states by 100%, for instance.

The conflict begun by President Vladimir Putin, which pits Christian vs. Christian, was publicly supported by the Russian Orthodox Church, which led to further fractures in the greater Orthodox Church and a further cooling in relations with the Vatican. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church split with the Russian Orthodox Church in May and reformed as the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Major Archbishop Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which is in communion with the universal Catholic Church, called the move by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church a “historic moment for Christians in Ukraine.” Pope Francis broke down in tears as he mentioned the suffering of the Ukrainian people during a public prayer service in Rome Dec. 8.

The Register reported on the ground that Poland led the way in responding to the resulting humanitarian crisis by welcoming more than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees. The former residence of Pope St. John Paul II in Krakow housed some of them. The Knights of Columbus, in addition to aiding persecuted Christians in trouble spots around the globe, were instrumental in aiding Ukrainian refugees in Poland.

China continued its clampdown on religion. In March, a new law came into effect that prohibited people and organizations from propagating religious ideas on the internet without the communist government’s authorization. Perhaps emblematic of China’s plan to control the Catholic Church was the continued harassment of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong. An outspoken critic of communism and activist for democracy, the cardinal was arrested in May for “collusion with foreign forces” and released on bail, on charges related to his role in a charity that helped to pay for the legal fees and medical treatments of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters. The cardinal was convicted in November and fined approximately $500. He remains under investigation for other more serious alleged “collusion with foreign forces” charges under China’s 2020 National Security Law, with potential penalties of up to life imprisonment if convicted.

Jimmy Lai, the pro-democracy activist and Catholic publisher of Hong Kong’s Apple Daily newspaper who has been detained since 2020, was sentenced in December to an additional five years and nine months in prison on charges of fraud related to Apple Daily’s operations. Lai, who many consider to be a political prisoner who was actually convicted in retaliation for his newspaper’s criticism of the Chinese government, is also charged with three additional charges of breaching national security. That trial was rescheduled from 2022 to September 2023.

Pope Francis created Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad, India, a cardinal at a May 30 consistory. The event took on added significance as Cardinal Poola became the first member of the dalit, India’s “untouchable” caste, to be made a cardinal. The subcontinent also celebrated the canonization of its first lay martyr, St. Devasayaham.

The Pope also gave the red hat to Bishop Peter Okpaleke of Nigeria in May. The newly minted cardinal, when interviewed by the Register prior to the consistory, expressed his joy and surprise at the Pope’s decision and committed to be a healer in his home country, torn by constant persecution of Christians.

Exiled Nicaraguan Bishop Silvio José Báez Ortega told the Register in July how he grieves for the people of his country under President Daniel Ortega’s persecution of the Catholic Church. A report on the country said that 190 churches had been desecrated and ransacked, and the government’s harassment of priests and laypeople was common.

The Cistercian Heiligenkreuz Monastery, just outside Vienna, entered its ninth century as a European center of monastic life. Founded in the 12th century, the monastery continues to minister to priests from around Europe, but primarily from Austria and Germany, for spiritual renewal.

And, in the Holy Land, at around the time the world was about to celebrate the Nativity of the Christ Child, Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem in the Palestinian Authority readied to welcome the delivery of its 100,000th child.

L to R: Alice von Hildebrand, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Queen Elizabeth II, David Schindler

Notable Deaths in 2022

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let Your perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.