Cardinal Mario Grech meets with people in Poland Cardinal Mario Grech meets with people in Poland  (Copyright by Wojciech Laczynski)

Cardinal Grech warns Ukrainian women, children at risk of trafficking

Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, sounds the alarm about the risk Ukrainian women and children refugees face at the hands of human traffickers.

By Devin Watkins

As the number of Ukrainians who have fled the Russian invasion tops 3.5 million, Cardinal Mario Grech has appealed for governments to protect women and children as they cross into the European Union.

The Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops made the call over the weekend while in Poland for a 4-day visit.

“Ukrainian women and children must be 'protected' from human traffickers when they arrive in our countries from Ukraine,” he told reporters.

Closeness to refugees

Cardinal Grech on Saturday visited two reception facilities run by the Diocese of Warsaw, accompanied by Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz and Msgr. Piotr Jarecki.

The Cardinal witnessed the work being done St. Margaret’s Parish in Łomianki, a small town near Warsaw, where 2,300 Ukrainian refugees—mostly women and children—are being hosted by parishioners in their own homes.

He also shared Pope Francis’ closeness with those helped by the “Dobre Miejsce” Centre, a diocesan house for spiritual exercises that has been turned into a home for 100 refugees.

Cardinal Grech listened to the stories of Ukrainian refugees, especially those of the children, and invoked God’s blessing upon them.

Turning blind-alleys into paths of hope

The Maltese-born Cardinal was in Poland for a 4-day visit to Warsaw to discuss the local Synodal process with clergy.

In a homily at Mass, Cardinal Grech urged Polish Catholics to welcome people fleeing war and violence, saying the Synod on synodality—currently in its first phase and which will be held in Rome in October 2023—is an invitation to make people feel more welcome in our churches.

He said the painful war in Ukraine and the refugees it has created may seem to lead toward a “cul-de-sac” with no exit. But, added Cardinal Grech, the Church is called to listen to the voice of God and turn our blind-alleys into “paths of hope.”

Painful separation

The UN refugee agency said Sunday that over 3.5 million people have fled Ukraine since 24 February when Russia invaded.

Poland has welcomed around 2 million of those, leading to a population increase of 17 percent in the capital, Warsaw, which previously counted 1.8 million residents.

Eyewitnesses who have visited Ukraine’s borders with the EU describe heartbreaking scenes. Men, who are barred from leaving the country, accompany women and children to the border, where they bid heart wrenching goodbyes to their families.

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21 March 2022, 10:40