Ukrainian refugees at the border of Moldova Ukrainian refugees at the border of Moldova  (ANSA)

EU and Church officials discuss solidarity for Ukrainian refugees

EU, civil society, journalists and Church representatives discuss "Solidarity and European cooperation for refugees from the war in Ukraine" at a meeting hosted in Rome to better understand how all are assisting those fleeing the war.

By Thaddeus Jones

The  European Parliament and European Commission organized a meeting in Rome to discuss European solidarity to help internally displaced Ukrainians and those fleeing to surrounding countries. The meeting took place on Friday 29 April and brought together in person and online EU representatives, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, political representatives from Italy, the Red Cross, Save the Children, and the Catholic Church, with the participation of Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission based in Geneva.

The event focused on the response of European States, UN agencies and charitable organizations to the refugee crisis caused by the war in Ukraine and exchanging ideas on improving humanitarian support. All presented the diverse and wide-ranging outreach of their efforts and answered questions from some of the public participating. 

Pope Francis' appeals for peace

In his presentation on the Catholic Church's role assisting Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced persons within the country, Msgr. Vitillo first pointed out how Pope Francis has frequently called attention to the "tragic violence and destruction" caused by the war and the need to provide humanitarian assistance and spiritual care to those affected. He recalled that since the war started, Pope Francis has made 33 public appeals calling for an end to the violence and assistance for all those affected, stressing dialogue as the only way to arrive at peace. 

“I hold in my heart all the many Ukrainian victims, the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, the divided families, the elderly left to themselves, the lives broken and the cities razed to the ground. I see the faces of the orphaned children fleeing from the war. As we look at them, we cannot help but hear their cry of pain, along with that of all those other children who suffer throughout our world: those dying of hunger or lack of medical care, those who are victims of abuse and violence, and those denied the right to be born. (Pope Francis, "Urbi et Orbi" Easter Message 17 April 2022)”

Heroic efforts to serve war victims

Msgr. Vitillo then highlighted the "heroic efforts" of the Catholic Church, as seen in the assistance provided by local parish communities, congregations of Religious Priests, Brothers and Sisters, diocesan, national, and global entitites, to serve the needs of the millions of internally displaced in Ukraine and millions of refugees forced to seek safety in surrounding countries. Over four and a half million Ukrainians have fled their country, and worries persist their numbers could grow to over eight million making it the worst refugee situation in Europe since the Second World War.

Coordination of Catholic outreach

Catholic organizations have been meeting to discuss and coordinate their activities, Msgr. Vitillo pointed out, and thanks to the encouragement of the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugee Section, leaders of global and European regional Catholic-inspired humanitarian and pastoral organizations have met to share their findings and actions through a recently formed Working Group,  “The Catholic Response for Ukraine.” They included representatives of Caritas Internationalis, Jesuit Refugee Services, the International Catholic Migration Commission, the Sovereign Order of Malta, the Councils of Episcopal Conferences in Europe, and of the Episcopal Conferences in the European Union.

All are working together to ensure those requiring help receive basic living needs, shelter, medical care, and education, as well as mental health and psychosocial support and spiritual care. In the area of advocacy, their outreach has also led to joint collaboration among other faith-inspired organizations, aiming to ensure that both Ukrainians and foreign nationals, such as students and migrant workers who seek refuge in surrounding nations will be assured of protection, irrespective of their origin, colour of skin, or residence status.

Remembering all world crises

This Working Group, with the title of "Catholic Response for Ukraine (CR4U)", has also committed to simultaneously inform and conscientize the Catholic faithful and wider public about other world crisis situations that often are long forgotten even by the media. The list of emergencies continues to grow, and so do the needs to serve millions of people requiring help and solidarity.

30 April 2022, 15:07