The major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church has reiterated the concerns of some of his Baltic neighbors, saying that Ukraine could be on the front line of a Russian threat, but the threat extends beyond the Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian crisis is not just a crisis for Ukrainians,” Bishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said. “It’s something that affects the whole world – in fact Europe, but also the United States and members of NATO.”
In a Feb. 4 virtual press conference sponsored by the pontifical aid agency Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Shevchuk said the threat of what he called a “hybrid war” had four dimensions. – military, propaganda, political and economic.
He also said that a recent poll showed that 63% of respondents considered “the church” – religious organizations – to be the most trusted social structure in Ukrainian society. He said people are looking to churches for help in how to respond to events and develop society, and church communities are trying to work together in response.
The first response is prayer, he said. Every day at 8 p.m. (1 p.m. EST), Ukrainian Catholics are asked to stop what they are doing and pray the Rosary for peace in Ukraine, and he asked others to join them.
“When we pray, we are no longer afraid,” he said. “We can calm down, and we can reflect, and we can examine our own consciences” and project logical responses to the crisis.
The second answer is social service, and the bishops have decided to focus on those who are cold, “helping the next to survive”. He said the church must offer hope.
“We believe that God is with us,” he said. “We have hope. We have the resources to resist,” he said, without giving further details. When everyone is tempted to “save their own skin”, the church hopes to help others.
Archbishop Shevchuk said there is a new “idolatry of violence” in the world, but Christians must say “No to violence. No to war”.
“Dialogue and solidarity can help us overcome any type of difficulty,” he said.
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The Archbishop’s remarks came amid escalating tensions and rhetoric over Russian military buildups near the Ukrainian border and in Belarus near the Ukrainian border.
On February 7, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Russia and Ukraine to try to defuse tensions, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz visited Washington to coordinate policies on Ukraine.
Russia has denied any plans to attack Ukraine, but wants Ukraine and other former Soviet republics to be prevented from joining NATO.
During the virtual press conference at which Archbishop Shevchuk spoke, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, thanked Pope Francis for the January 26 Day of Prayer for Peace in Ukraine and noted that the Pope had asked all people of good will, not just Catholics, to pray.
Speaking about the escalation of military and political tensions in the region, Bishop Kulbokas said, “If we leave the situation in the hands of the politicians, sometimes it is even difficult to expect something positive, because everyone, every government must present its own interests. “
“The true Christian never, ever engages in war…should not promote war.”
“We are not pacifists in the sense that we do not participate in the defense of our country — no — but we do not promote war,” he added.
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