Ukraine: Major Archbishop Shevchuk thanks Cardinal Sako for solidarity
By Lisa Zengarini
The Patriarch of the Chaldean Church in Iraq has sent a message of solidarity to Major Archbishop Sviatovlav Shevchuk of Kyiv to express the closeness of Iraq to the Ukrainian people as they continue to endure the hardships of war.
"We are following the news from Ukraine closely, and feel the same fears and concerns for the future, since we experienced the same situation in Baghdad,” wrote Cardinal Luis Raphael Sako, referring to the suffering experienced by the people of Iraq during the war that ravaged their country for many years.
Cardinal Sako: war is never justified
In the letter dated 11 March, the Patriarch of Baghdad of the Chaldeans reiterated once again that war can never be justified and never solves conflicts.
Patriarch Sako concluded expressing prayerful solidarity and hope for all the suffering people both in Ukraine and Russia.
Archbishop Shevchuk's video message
Major Archbishop Shevchuk thanked the Iraqi Patriarch for his support in his Sunday video message to the faithful from Kyiv.
The head of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine also expressed deep gratitude to the Scandinavian Catholic Bishops, who in a statement last week joined in firmly condemning Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Continue to pray for those suffering
He invited the faithful to continue to pray for Ukraine, the military defending the country, and for all those who are suffering because of the war, as well as for the Russian invaders “sowing devastation, death and fear”, as they are accused of using weapons banned by international conventions.
Russia has been accused of bombing civilian targets with highly lethal cluster and thermobaric bombs, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) has opened an investigation into possible war crimes.
Seeking God’s forgiveness
As Christians celebrate the Lenten Season — which Eastern Churches began on Forgiveness Sunday, this year on 6 March — Major Archbishop Shevchuk also emphasized the importance of seeking God’s forgiveness for sins through the Sacrament of Confession.
He recalled that though “the Mystery of Confession can be experienced only when the priest is personally present and when there is a personal encounter with the one who, in the name of the Lord our God, has the authority to grant us forgiveness of our sins”, in circumstances when there is no access to the minister of the Mystery of Repentance, "there is the opportunity to benefit from the forgiveness of sins through a perfect act of contrition.”
Ongoing talks between Russia and Ukraine
As the horror of war continues to unfold each day in Ukraine in spite of countless appeals for a diplomatic solution and of growing international isolation of Moscow, Russia and Ukraine held a new round of talks on Monday, following the meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, and Russia, Sergey Lavrov, last week.
2.7 million refugees
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 Februry, the UN has recorded at least 596 civilian deaths, including 85 children, though it believes the true death toll is much higher.
Millions more people have fled their homes, with more than 2.7 million crossing into Poland and other neighboring countries.
Fighting expanding to the western Ukraine
While intesifying the siege of Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Russia expanded its assault on Sunday to western Ukraine, striking the International Center for Peacekeeping and Security near Yavoriv, a military base which has long been used to train Ukrainian soldiers, often with instructors from the United States and other NATO members.
The base is less than 25 kilometers from the Polish border and has hosted NATO training drills, making it a potent symbol of Russia’s longstanding fears that the expansion of the 30-member Western military alliance to include former Soviet states threatens its security — something NATO denies.
NATO said Sunday that it currently does not have any personnel in Ukraine, though the United States has increased the number of US troops deployed to NATO member Poland.