Prayer and Fast Service in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in London Prayer and Fast Service in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in London  (ANSA)

Ukraine: London Church leaders call for action to aid refugees coming to UK

As the number of Ukrainian citizens seeking shelter outside the borders of the country surpasses two million, London Church leaders are calling on the British Government to take swift action to ensure Ukrainian refugees are allowed to enter the UK as soon as possible.

By Lydia O’Kane

London Church leaders met on Wednesday at the Ukrainian Cathedral of the Holy Family in Britain’s capital to pray with the cathedral’s Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski.

While there, they also shared their concerns about the catastrophic humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine and Europe.

Urgent action to aid refugees

Following the meeting, the Church leaders sent a letter to British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson calling for urgent action for refugees fleeing Ukraine.

The letter was signed by the Co-Chair of the London Churches group, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster.

In the correspondence, they write that they are “encouraged by the Government’s family sponsorship programme and welcomed the intention to establish a pathway to humanitarian sponsorship.”

However, the Church leaders call for sponsorship not to be limited to those with family members in the UK, “but those sponsorship criteria “be expanded to include all Ukrainian refugees on humanitarian grounds.”

They note that mothers, children, the elderly and those with disabilities cannot be expected to complete online application forms in a language that is foreign to them.

“Times of war require swift action and flexibility, the easing of normal and procedures and the removal complex bureaucratic that can easily turn hope into despair and resignation,” they write.

Welcoming Ukrainians to UK

The Eparch of the Ukrainian Cathedral of the Holy Family, Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski spoke to Vatican Radio, saying they were ready to welcome refugees to Great Britain which could be in the region of one hundred thousand.

“We’re working with the Home Office here to ensure that refugees are properly registered for healthcare and children in school.”

The bishop added that they are working with other organisations in the United Kingdom to ensure that the needs of these refugees are met, whether it is pastoral care, clothing, or food.

Listen to the interview

Power of Prayer

At a time when people in Europe and around the world are showing their support through generous donations, Bishop Novakowski emphasized that one of the most important things people can do is to pray.

“Prayer is more powerful than weapons.”

Supporting those in need

The bishop also encouraged people to support the humanitarian aid agencies that are working in Ukraine, Poland and Romania and other countries that are the first place of entry for refugees fleeing the war.

Two million pounds have already been raised in the last two and a half weeks in form of private donations that people have sent to the Holy Family Cathedral in London.

These funds are being given to the Ukrainian Red Cross and Caritas Ukraine to help them continue their vital work.

Heartbreaking scenes

The bishop described as “heartbreaking” the scenes of Ukrainian people fleeing their country but said that in the last two weeks, there has been “such an outpouring of support and solidarity from everybody here in the United Kingdom,  especially from our Polish community here.”

The Eparch is also the bishop of the Belarusian Greek Catholics and Slovak Greek Catholics in Great Britain and those communities, he said, “have really expressed their solidarity with us.”

At the Cathedral of the Holy Family people have been coming in off the street to pray and show their solidarity with the Ukrainian people which the bishop described as an “amazing thing.”

10 March 2022, 19:03