Ukrainian Catholic bishops in Canada urge prayers for Ukraine
By Lisa Zengarini
As Ukraine endures the threat of Russian invasion, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishops in Canada have joined Pope Francis and European bishops in urging for a peaceful solution to the crisis, while expressing the closeness of the Ukrainian Catholic diaspora to their "brothers and sisters” in the homeland.
Tensions still high
Tensions over Ukraine still run high after the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on January 21.
Though Lavrov insisted that Russia is not planning to attack Ukraine and Blinken said that the meeting provided a "clearer path of understanding each others' concerns”, there were no major breakthrough in the talks.
Tensions between the two former Soviet Union countries began after the annexation of Crimea by Moscow in 2014 and Russian involvement in the armed conflict in the separatist Donbass region. It escalated again recently as Russia amassed some 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine.
Both the US and its European allies have warned that any Russian invasion would be met with a severe response. They have rejected demands by the Kremlin that NATO commit to never admitting Ukraine as a member and withdraw its troops and forces back to NATO's 1997 borders, before several countries in Eastern Europe were admitted.
Concern in the Ukrainian community in Canada
The 1.3-million-strong Ukrainian Catholic community in Canada is following the latest developments with growing concern.
In a statement released on 23 January, the Greek-Catholic Bishops of Canada assured Ukrainian people of their prayers and support: “You should know that we remain united with you even more now during these threatening times,” the statement reads.
Addressing brothers and sisters in Russia
The Bishops then addressed their “brothers and sisters in Russia”, asking them “to reconsider the motives of their leaders in re-igniting the hardship that the citizens of Ukraine have undergone in the last seven years.”
“Surely a neighbourly solution of reconciling divergent political visions will prove more successful in building solidarity and mutual beneficial collaboration,” they added. The bishops also appealed to the “shared Christian faith which flows from the ancient Baptism of St. Volodymyr“ (the Kievan Prince who converted to Christianity and Christianized the ‘Rus of Kiev in the 10th Century, ed.).
Peaceful solutions to the conflict
The Canadian Greek-Catholic Bishops furthermore appealed to all civil authorities that have any influence over the situation, and above all Russia, to consider peaceful solutions to the conflict.
“This would not necessarily mean a compromise, but would prove to be a just and fair and even magnanimous solution,” they said. “History teaches us that forced compromises, unnecessary subjugation and unjust resolutions often only fester and eventually erupt in ways unforeseen which are often more devastating than an earlier bilateral resolution would have been.”
Prayer and support to Ukraine
Finally, they called on “all people of goodwill” in Canada to see the ongoing “not merely as another distant conflict on the other side of the world.”
“This is a conflict that has already brought tragedy and hardship upon millions of individuals and families,” they said.
The Canadian Greek Catholic Bishops therefore urged the faithful in Canada to concentrate their efforts in three directions. Firstly, they should keep informed and inform others on what is going on in Ukraine. “The world cannot look away; you should not look away. Seek and share the truth, which gives authentic freedom and wisdom,” they wrote.
Secondly, they asked for financial support to humanitarian relief for the people affected by the crisis, who lack of clean water, fuel, food, clothes and medicines.
Finally, they called for prayer for peace and justice in Ukraine. “May God protect Ukraine and its people from further harm,” the statement concluded.
Pope calling for a Day of prayer
The Bishops’ statement was issued on Sunday as Pope Francis called for a special day of prayer for peace in Ukraine.
At the conclusion of Angelus prayer, the Holy Father reiterated his concerns over the tensions in the region which threaten peace and security in the entire European continent.
“I make a heartfelt appeal to all people of good will to raise prayers to Almighty God that all political actions and initiatives may be at the service of human brotherhood rather than partisan interests,” Pope Francis said.