Cardinal Krajewski leading the Via Crucis in war-torn Kyiv
By Alessandro De Carolis
The stations of the Cross in Ukraine are marked by carcasses of combat vehicles, gutted houses and unburied bodies. Cardinal Konrad Krajewski is in war-ravaged Kyiv to celebrate Holy Friday, having arrived in the Ukrainian capital to deliver a second ambulance donated by Pope Francis to the city’s cardiological hospital.
It is a symbol, he told Vatican Radio, with which the Pope “kisses the feet of the Ukrainian people.”
The Cardinal, who has travelled to Ukraine for the third time since the Russian invasion on 24 February, said he is there also to share the Triduum and Easter with the people who have been living the Passion for the past 50 days, in the hope that each day is a step closer to resurrection and rebirth.
Your Eminence, this morning you brought a new gift from the Pope to the people of Ukraine. How did the delivery of the ambulance go?
Everything went very well because the director of the biggest cardiology hospital in Kyiv immediately understood it represents a symbol, not only for saving lives but also of the possible resurrection of Ukraine. We also met with doctors and other hospital staff, and the director thanked the Pope for this gift received on the day we commemorate the Last Supper. It is therefore a symbol of the Pope kissing the feet of the Ukrainian people, of his being close to them and suffering with them. "We," he said, "are doctors and we must be like the Good Samaritan and operate not only on Ukrainians who are wounded, civilians and soldiers, we must help everyone, including the Russians. It's a difficult thing for him to do, operating in the knowledge that he is dealing with men who may have killed many people. But he said: "This is what it means to be a doctor, a Samaritan, and a man, in spite of the bitterness of the heart and the feelings that one has inside". These words for me are pure Gospel: it is hard, but when we follow the Gospel, it is as beautiful as spring, and everything blooms. I learned so much from this director. It was worth it to travel with the ambulance for thousands of miles and listen to someone who spoke in this way before some 150 other doctors. For me, his was the real "homily" of the day.
What atmosphere did you find in Kyiv, particularly now that Easter is near?
It seems the city is starting to come alive, but that's not true. There are assault groups, sirens blaring and people hiding. And then you only have to go a short distance from Kyiv to see the signs of war, including lifeless people. Tomorrow I will try to reach these very places and celebrate the Way of the Cross, while the Pope will do so at the Colosseum. With the Nuncio, in a private way, we will walk our Way of the Cross where the true Passion of Jesus is, where people suffer and die. But we will end the Way of the Cross with the Station of the Resurrection.
It will be a Calvary to climb together with the Ukrainians...
Exactly, that's what the Pope wanted: that I stay all week to live the Triduum with the Ukrainians. Presence is the first name of love. The Pope loves to say that a priest should have "the smell of the sheep" and this is why he sent me here: to be among the people and not to take pictures or to travel but to stay and pray.
Will you stay until Easter?
Sure, and hopefully it will be Resurrection Sunday for this country. I will be presiding over celebrations in different churches. We must remember that for the Orthodox Church, Easter falls one week after our Sunday. So, here the time is extended and we can, so to speak, celebrate the Resurrection of Christ twice, even though we can celebrate it in every Mass.