Papal Almoner collecting thermal jumpers for Ukrainians

The Pope’s special office for charitable activities announces a collection of thermal jackets to help Ukrainians survive the harsh winter amid power cuts due to Russian attacks on energy infrastructure.

By Lisa Zengarini

As the cold sets in Ukraine and the winter heating crisis begins to bite, the Dicastery for the Service of Charity has announced a new outreach campaign to help Ukrainians survive the harsh winter ahead.

The Pope’s special office for charity activities, also known as the Apostolic Almsgiving (Elemosineria Apostolica), is collecting warm clothes and plans to send them within a month's time with lorries.

Winter heating crisis

“The Ukrainian people are experiencing an emergency linked not only to the war, but also to the lack of electricity, gas, and the bitter cold winter", reads a communiqué signed by the Apostolic Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski. The Dicastery is therefore collecting specifically thermal jumpers used for skiing, for men women and children.

The Apostolic Almoner is already stocking up on these items. Those who wish to support the initiative can donate at, or send thermal jumpers directly to the dicastery’s headquarters in the Vatican (address: Cortile Sant'Egidio, 00120 Vatican City).

€‎ 100,000 goal achieved but campaign continues

At midnight on 19 December, the initial goal of 100,000 euros was achieved. Cardinal Krajewski released a statement in which he thanked all those who made a contribution.

"Since the extreme cold continues and our charity can help give a little bit of respite, the fundraising campaign will continue until 6 January," he said adding that "The amount raised will be used completely toward the acquisition of thermal jackets for the population of Ukraine."

7 million internally displaced Ukrainians already facing freezing winter

The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, says some 7 million internally displaced Ukrainians are already facing freezing winter conditions after being forced to flee their homes. Many are taking shelter in damaged buildings with no access to electricity and heating.

The heating crisis has worsened after Russia stepped up its missile strikes on Ukraine’s civilian energy sites, causing power shortages nationwide, also seriously affecting Ukrainian nuclear power plants. In late November, for the first time ever, all 15 of its nuclear reactors were taken offline by fighting.

50% of Ukraine’s power plants destroyed

Nuclear plants supply power to the grid when operating, but when shut down they actually draw power from it in order to run vital cooling and safety systems, which means disruption to the electricity supply is a major concern.

Russian troops also still hold control of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power station in Europe, where ongoing cross-fire shelling has been posing a serious threat to nuclear safety.  

According to the Ukrainian government, 50% of the country’s power plants have been destroyed.

Aid to the Church in Need providing wood stoves 

Power shortages are also seriously affecting church communities in Ukraine. For this reason, the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has recently approved  a financial aid package for the purchase of wood stoves and generators, including 40 small generators for the Exarchate of Donetsk, where two priests were recently taken into custody by Russian militia.

There are also plans to change heating systems in three parishes, two convents for women religious, one bishop’s residence, a parish house and the Ternopil seminary. One example of this aid is the purchase of wooden stoves for the Diocese of Kharkiv-Zaporizhzhia, in eastern Ukraine, where the winters are particularly harsh.  Part of the diocese is still occupied by Russian forces, but the houses in the liberated territory are almost all partially or completely destroyed.  

Concern over the bitter winter cold led the local bishop to ask ACN for help.  “It is going to be a big challenge to warm homes and cook food because not everybody has access to electricity or gas. Many people have come to us asking for help,” Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk told ACN, which offered help in the form of the wood stoves that were requested.

Faced with the shortages of electricity and gas, many are trying to change to different heating systems. The rector of the seminary of Ternopil, Father Ivan Rymar, is one of many who have asked for help to switch from natural gas to combustible pellets, made of compressed wood chips, a more reliable fuel source. The seminary already produces pellets, and thanks to the help provided by ACN it can significantly reduce the cost of heating the seminary.

Donations for the thermal jumpers can be made at the following link: 

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Updated on 20 January 2022

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15 December 2022, 14:02