Archbishop Gallagher visits a portion of Lviv Archbishop Gallagher visits a portion of Lviv 

Archbishop Gallagher: ‘Seeing war in Ukraine on TV is not same as in person’

On the sidelines of his visit to Ukraine, the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States says the war has created “a tremendous humanitarian crisis” and praises the local Church’s efforts to support people in distress.

By Mariusz Krawiec – Lviv, Ukraine

On the second day of his visit to Ukraine, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher spoke to Vatican News about his first impressions and his mission to bring consolation in the name of Pope Francis.

The Secretary for Relations with States also appealed for peace in Ukraine, as the war grinds on with little possibility for a ceasefire.

Q: You came to Ukraine as a delegate of the Holy Father. What is the main purpose of this visit and what are your first impressions?

The main purpose is to return the visit that the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, made a while ago to the Vatican. I had told him I would come but it has not been possible in recent months, then the war broke out and we set a date earlier this month, but unfortunately I contracted Covid-19 so that date was missed. We set a new date for Friday, 20 May, in Kyiv.

However, as everyone knows, it is very difficult to reach Ukraine, Kyiv and Lviv at this particular time; it takes time but this also allows us to make some visits and talk to different people.

We met with the Latin Church, the Greek Catholic Church, and we visited some church structures that host refugees like a monastery and a parish.

I was very pleased to see how the Church has responded to this tremendous humanitarian crisis. It is a Church that identifies itself completely with its people and tries to respond to the needs, to help everyone, not only Catholics but also those of other religions. I see that there is tension and insecurity among people because they do not know what will happen in the future.

We are witnessing the sufferings of the refugees who had to leave everything and come to the western part of the country, and this is really difficult, especially because most of them are women, children, and young people.

Currently, they are safe, but there is no shortage of problems: leaving their home, coming from somewhere else and then of course the separation from their fathers—these things weigh heavily.

It is a great suffering that is felt among people who are distressed, even though their spirit is strong. There is still a trauma that the country is experiencing.

In Kyiv, we will have meetings with the authorities, but it was good to be in Lviv and celebrate Mass with Archbishop Mokrzycki, and to have a long talk with the bishops of the Greek Catholic Church.

I had never been to Ukraine. I had met various personalities in Rome, but it is not the same thing to be here.

Seeing the war from television is one thing, touching this reality is another. I would also like to express support and solidarity on behalf of the Holy Father.

Q: What do you think the Holy See can do for peace in Ukraine?

The Holy See and the Holy Father himself are willing to do everything possible. The Holy See continues its diplomatic activity among the Ukrainian authorities. And through the Embassy of Russia to the Holy See we have some contact with Moscow.

The Holy See would like to continue to encourage people to send humanitarian aid, and at the same time raise awareness in the international community, which is always necessary.

Unfortunately, in every conflict—we have seen it also in Syria or Lebanon with the many problems they have had—after a while fatigue takes over, even in supporting a people in distress.

Fatigue also comes when you don't find a solution, or if things go on for a long time.

So, what we try to do—what the Pope has done—is to initiate many dialogues, moments of prayer, and appeals for the end of the war in Ukraine. And we will continue in this direction.  

19 May 2022, 16:52