Archbishop Gudziak: For peace in Ukraine, there must be justice
By Christopher Wells
Ukrainian Catholics are continually praying for peace, says Archeparch Borys Gudziak, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Philadelphia. “What has happened in the last six months is a brutal escalation,” he says – an escalation that has mobilized Ukrainian Catholics to work even harder for peace.
A response on three fronts
Speaking with Vatican Radio during a visit to Rome, Archbishop Gudziak said that the Ukrainian faithful in the United States are responding to the ongoing war on three fronts: prayer, information, and charity.
“First of all, is prayer in our churches, in our homes, in our communities, but also with our brothers and sisters that have the goodwill to pray with us – Roman Catholics, Orthodox Protestants, Jews, Muslims,” he said.
On the second front, Archbishop Gudziak said Ukrainians in the diaspora are trying, whether individually or structurally, “to keep American society” and the Church in the United States informed about what is really happening in Ukraine. He noted that Ukrainians have “immediate information” about events in Ukraine from contacts with friends and relatives in the country.
Finally, he said, Catholics in the United States have been “really generous” in responding to the humanitarian needs of Ukraine. The Archbishop estimates that American Catholics have collected over 100 million dollars for humanitarian aid, which “makes an incredible difference.”
He added, “Everywhere you go, you can hear from Ukrainians that they are grateful to Americans for the defensive help and for the humanitarian aid.”
For true peace, there must be justice
But while Ukrainians and people of goodwill around the world pray for peace, Archbishop Gudziak insisted that “peace is something that calls for, requires, justice. You can't have a peace that is a sell-out. Peace has to have justice. There needs to be clarity about justice for peace to really prevail.”
So, he said, “our prayer for peace is also a prayer for justice. We pray for those who are defending the innocent, who are giving their lives. We pray for the refugees. We pray for those who have been wounded. For the orphans. The widows. We pray for the courage and wisdom of leaders, both in government, in Ukraine, internationally. We pray for the wisdom and courage of Church leaders.”
Archbishop Gudziak continued, “We pray [too] for the spiritual strength that gives each person peace in their heart.” He explained, “It’s very important not to let the enemy of humankind enter into the soul,” and added, “Prayer keeps our focus on the source of our life and on our destiny. If we know that we are called to eternal life, our fear drops.”
The response of charity
Not only Ukrainians, he said, but “tens of millions” of non-Ukrainians have responded to the aggression in Ukraine. He noted that there “has been a response of charity, a response of helping the victims, of receiving the homeless, of trying to feed the hungry and dry the tears of those who are crying."
Those who attempt to oppress others, said Archbishop Gudziak, try “to demoralize people, to take away their faith, take away their hope, and to take away their love.”
But, he said, “when we love, when we hope in the Lord and hope in the dignity of our fellow brothers and sisters, when we have faith that truth will overcome, God's truth will always overcome, we stand up to those who kill, to the marauders, to rapists, to those that torture. And that's how many Ukrainians are trying to respond and so many people are responding throughout the world to this devastating war.”
God’s truth will overcome
At the conclusion of the interview, Archbishop Gudziak thanked listeners “who have been supporting Ukraine in prayer, through the spreading of proper information and through humanitarian aid.”
Below please find the transcript of Vatican Radio’s interview with Archbishop Borys Gudziak:
Vatican Radio: What I want to start with, Archbishop Gudziak, first of all, thank you for joining us at Vatican Radio today. You and the other Ukrainian bishops recently met in Synod in Poland due to the war; I think you would have preferred perhaps to meet elsewhere. Could you tell us about some of the major themes that came out of the bishops’ reflections?
Archeparch Borys: Well, of course, there was a lot of time devoted to the war, the question of refugees, the humanitarian crisis, and what people are living in their souls and in their spirits. This was dominant, you know, during breakfast lunches and dinners. And it was, of course, part of the formal program.
Synodality was an important question. Your listeners probably realize that Eastern Catholic churches and their synods are responsible for choosing candidates for Episcopacy. So this was an important topic as well.
We had not gathered for three years because of COVID. Being together was a great joy. There's a big challenge for the Eastern Catholic churches. They have big diasporas. They're not big in and of themselves. And they are often spread quite thin. Living in different cultures, it's important for us to find ways to keep the church together. In Brazil, our service is in Portuguese. In France, we are beginning to use French. I would say a majority of our parishes in North America use more English than Ukrainian, and some for decades are exclusively Anglophone. To keep these aspects, or these parts of our church that live in different cultures together, the Synod is very important because the bishops can share information and foster the communion of our church globally.
Vatican Radio: And you, of course, are a Metropolitan in the United States as part of the diaspora. I think a lot of people maybe see what's happening in Ukraine itself. And yet the war there is affecting everybody throughout the diaspora of Ukrainians. Can you tell us a little bit about how that's impacting your Archeparchy and the work that you're doing as a church to serve the needs of your flock?
Archeparch Borys: So we have approximately 200 parishes in four dioceses or eparchies throughout the country coast to coast. These parishes, our parishioners, our priests, and our eparchies have actually been involved in responding to the war for eight years because the war began in 2014.
Every service, every Sunday, there's prayer for peace in Ukraine.
What has happened in the last six, six months is a brutal escalation. It has mobilized us more. And we are working on three fronts. First of all, is prayer in our churches, in our homes, in our communities, but also with our brothers and sisters that have the goodwill to pray with us – Roman Catholics, Orthodox Protestants, Jews, Muslims. We had a prayer service in front of my house with the Afro-American Muslims of my neighborhood. So prayer is number one.
Second: information. A lot of people want to know what's going on. And the members of our parishes often have friends or relatives in Ukraine. They talk to them a few times a day. They have very immediate information. And we try, whether it's on a personal level or structurally, through our communication services, to keep American society, the American Catholic Church, informed.
And then the third is humanitarian help. There is incredible need. Seven million people have become refugees outside of the country. Seven million are internally displaced persons. And five more million who are at home cannot survive without humanitarian help.
American Catholics have been really generous in their response. My rough estimate is that American Catholics, whether it's personally, through parishes, dioceses, organizations, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Malta, different funds, [that] they have collected over $100 million for humanitarian aid. And that makes an incredible difference. Everywhere you go, you can hear from Ukrainians that they're grateful to Americans for the defensive help and for the humanitarian aid.
Vatican Radio: And I want to focus on a couple of things you said, but especially, you said the first front that you're working on is the aspect of prayer and prayer for peace. Peace can mean different things to different people. But over and over again, especially the Ukrainian Catholic Church, but also other Ukrainians, have been saying they're praying for peace. What does that mean when you say we're praying for peace?
Archeparch Borys: Peace is something that calls for, requires, integrity. You can't have a peace that is a sell out. Peace has to have justice. There needs to be clarity about justice for peace to really prevail.
So our prayer for peace is also a prayer for justice. We pray for those who are defending the innocent, who are giving their lives. We pray for the refugees. We pray for those who have been wounded. For the orphans. The widows. We pray for the courage and wisdom of leaders, both in government, in Ukraine, internationally. We pray for the wisdom and courage of church leaders. Our bishops and our priests are also on the spiritual frontline. The bishop in Kharkiv, he is regularly distributing humanitarian aid, and every day cruise missiles are hitting the city.
So we we pray for the spiritual strength that gives each person peace in their heart. It's very important not to let the enemy of humankind enter into our soul. Prayer keeps our focus on the source of our life and on our destiny. If we know that we are called to eternal life, our fear drops.
And I think one reason why the world's attention has been so focused on the valiant attempt Ukrainians to protect their freedom is that we see people who believe in eternity. They're willing to sacrifice their lives because they believe their life is not the most important thing, and they don't believe that death is the end. They believe that they will be called to live with the Lord.
So there are very deep and diverse spiritual processes. There's a lot of trauma. There's the sin of war. There are the tears of mourning. But there is also great inspiration. People are saying, “This is good, and this is absolute evil. This is true, and this is false.” In the 21st century when we've kind of deconstructed things, when we've said, “Well, you know, there's your truth, there's my truth, there really is no truth,” today, Ukrainians are waking up to the fact that the commandments are important. Thou shalt not kill. Don't come and kill us. Do not steal. Do not rape us. Do not lie about us.
It's been demonstrated in Bucha Borodianka, Irpin; there's a thousand places that are still under occupation; the leveling of Mariupol, tens of thousands of people killed there already… convince people that if they come under occupation, they very likely will be killed. And so there is great fortitude.
Ukrainian Catholics also know that every time there's been a Russian occupation, whether it's the 18th century, 19th century, 20th century, or in Crimea or the Donbas since 2014, our church gets suffocated.
There will be no Ukrainian Catholic Church under Russian occupation in Ukraine.
There are 400, maybe 500,000 Ukrainian Catholics in the Russian Federation. But the Russian authorities have not allowed for the registration of a single Ukrainian Catholic parish.
Vatican Radio: I want to follow up on something you said and something that the bishops as a whole said in their message following the synod, which starts off with quotation from Romans, “Overcome evil with good,” where there's a very clear understanding that there is good and evil at work here. What does it mean to respond to a great evil that's being done to the Ukrainian people? And how are they called as not, only as a people, but especially as Christians, to respond to the aggression that's being waged against them?
Archeparch Borys: The response of good has been that of Ukrainians, but tens of millions of non-Ukrainians. And that response has been a response of charity, a response of helping the victims, of receiving the homeless, of trying to feed the hungry and dry the tears of those who are crying. When we love, when we help those in need, we are never wrong.
And what imperialists, militarists, what those who want to suppress others try to do, is to demoralize people, to take away their faith, take away their hope, and to take away their love. And when we love, when we hope in the Lord and hope in the dignity of our fellow brothers and sisters, when we have faith that truth will overcome, God's truth will always overcome, we stand up to those who kill, to the marauders, to rapists, to those that torture. And that's how many Ukrainians are trying to respond and so many people are responding throughout the world to this devastating war.
Vatican Radio: Obviously, the war is the most relevant reality of what's happening for the Ukrainian people and for the [Ukrainian Catholic] church right at this moment. But I want to ask you one final question. You did meet in synod just a few weeks ago, and as you already alluded to, the Ukrainian church and most Eastern churches have a long experience of synodality and perhaps a different experience of synodality that many Latin Catholics are familiar with. Can you talk about how the church is undergoing the Synodal pathway that has been promoted by and encouraged by our Holy Father, Pope Francis? What can the Ukrainian church offer out of its experience of synodality to the church, the universal church as a whole?
Archeparch Borys: For me as a bishop holding synods – we call them eparchial assemblies or councils – has been one of the most life-giving aspects of the life of the communities for which I was responsible.
In Paris, in a matter of five years, we held eight three-day synods. Synods were not an extraordinary event. They were part of the normal communion, celebration, and administration of our eparchy. We had four sessions of the Synod in my first three years in Philadelphia. Things were more difficult because of the COVID restrictions, but it really brings people together when we listen to each other. And I think Pope Francis's emphasis on listening is very accurate, very fruitful.
When we're in synod as bishops – there are 52 bishops in our in our synod – we spend time together trying to receive the experience of others. And of course, we are all enriched by that.
All of this is true because senility is the quality of God Himself. God is the Communion, the mutual listening of three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. So the historical and contemporary experience of synodality of the Eastern churches is something that we hope to share. We say, “Come and see, come and taste how good the Lord is” when we are celebrating communion, when we are doing so liturgically, but also similarly, and we certainly will learn from the experience of synodality in the Church Universal.
Vatican Radio: Thank you very much. Archbishop, is there anything else you'd like to add for our listeners?
Archeparch Borys: I want to thank all of the listeners that have been supporting Ukraine in prayer through the spreading of proper information and through humanitarian aid. There is incredible need. Don't stop. Please continue. The people in Ukraine are very grateful to you and they are counting on the fact that God's truth will overcome.
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