Holy See addresses Ukraine crisis at UN in Geneva
By Robin Gomes
The Holy See has expressed deep concern over the escalation of the war in Ukraine, saying it is “posing an immediate and ever-growing threat to the lives and well-being of at least 7.5 million children.” Many of them have left their homes and even their homeland.
The Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva expressed its concern at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday. Later that day, Ukrainian officials said a Russian air attack severely damaged a children's hospital and maternity ward in the besieged port city of Mariupol. Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin condemned the reported bombing as “unacceptable,” saying, "There are no reasons, there are no motivations, to do this," he said.
Assisting families and children
Speaking at the annual discussion on the rights of the child, the Holy See Mission in Geneva said that the international community has the moral responsibility to provide assistance to families and children forced to flee, both in the short-term – with shelters, food and clean water – and in the long-term – with specific initiatives to welcome, protect, promote and integrate them.
“It is absolutely crucial that we support refugees fleeing from conflict zones, including by simplifying the procedures for family reunification, so that all those who have family members in other countries can easily and safely join them in a timely manner, while protecting those unaccompanied minors from being preys of abusers or traffickers.”
In a separate meeting of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Holy See Mission pointed out that Pope Francis desires to be among the suffering people of Ukraine and meet those fleeing the conflict. Hence, he has sent medical supplies through Cardinal Krajewski, the Almoner of the Office of Papal Charities, and Cardinal Czerny, interim Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, both of whom are now in the besieged country.
Gratitude to those offering assistance
The Holy See drew attention to the tragic suffering of mothers fleeing with children, of families being separated, of unaccompanied children, and the elderly uprooted from their homes. The Holy See echoed the Pope’s gratitude to Ukraine’s neighbouring countries, and in particular Poland, for the generosity that they are showing in welcoming people in need as a true family of nations. The Holy See also welcomes the decision of the European Union to offer temporary protection to refugees fleeing Ukraine, as well as assistance to third-country nationals in Ukraine, who are stranded amidst the conflict.
It underscored the urgent need to establish and sustain humanitarian corridors and safe passages as well as to make use of community-based sponsorships of individuals and families. This, it said, is of utmost importance in order to save lives and also to defend and prevent against exploitation by criminal organizations that may take advantage of the vulnerable situation of many, creating even more victims of human trafficking in such a rapidly evolving situation.
While highlighting the priority of Ukraine at the moment, the Holy See delegation said it should not detract attention from numerous other situations around the globe which equally require urgent humanitarian assistance.