By Vatican News staff reporter
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, has thanked Pope Francis for his appeal for peace in Ukraine.
“On behalf of the Ukrainian society, of the people of Ukraine, and also on behalf of the Council of the Churches and Religious Organizations - because in this moment, I am the Chair of this Council - I would like to express our gratitude to the Holy Father Francis, for his appeal for peace in Ukraine.”
Pope Francis’ appeal
The Pope’s appeal came during the Regina Coeli on Sunday. In remarks following the recitation of the Marian prayer, the Holy Father described the ongoing conflict in Ukraine as “sad,” and said he was following the events there with “great concern.” In particular, he noted the numerous violations of the ceasefire in recent months.
“We live in great fear”
Speaking with Benedetta Cappelli of Vatican News, Major Archbishop Shevchuk said Ukrainians are living in great fear due to the “massive concentration” of Russian troops on the border. “We live [in] great fear not only of the intensification of military action in the occupied territory of Donbas,” he said, but also because, “we fear a new, direct invasion of the Russian troops in Ukrainian territory which could be a cause of thousands of victims, and also a precipitation of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.”
Concerns of the European Union
The concern is shared by the European Union, which is attempting to pursue a path of dialogue and diplomacy. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, has described the situation as “alarming” and “worrying,” because of the risk of an escalation in the conflict. Therefore, he said, “it is necessary defuse tensions.” He also expressed “serious concern” about the possibility of intervention by the United States.
Hopes for reconciliation and peace
Making his appeal on Sunday, Pope Francis said, “I strongly hope an increase in tensions will be avoided, and, on the contrary, that gestures be made that are capable of promoting mutual trust and fostering reconciliation and peace, which are so much needed and so much desired.”
Gratitude for the Pope’s solidarity
In his comments to Vatican News, Major Archbishop Shevchuk said, “We are so grateful that the Holy Father made this appeal, that he is with us, that he expressed his concern and solidarity.” He added, “We expect that the interests of society, those who have in their responsibility to stop military action, will have enough courage to fulfil their commitment to look for peaceful solutions of not an easy situation in the eastern Ukraine.”