A Christmas tree stands in Kyiv's Sophia Square A Christmas tree stands in Kyiv's Sophia Square 

Nuncio to Ukraine: ‘May it be a Christmas without missiles’

Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, expresses his hopes that Ukrainians may celebrate Christmas in peace without the looming destruction of Russian missiles.

By Svitlana Dukhovych & Devin Watkins

“This is our first wish: a safe Christmas, a Christmas without missiles, without explosions... And a Christmas of prayer in which there is the great solidarity of the world.”

This Christmas wish and prayer was expressed by the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, in an interview with Svitlana Dukhovych.

The prospects for such a Christmas ceasefire remain dim, as Russian bombs continue to gut homes and claim lives, while leaving millions without power and heating in the freezing weather.

Christmas like at Bethlehem

Yet, according to Archbishop Kulbokas, the people of Ukraine will seek to celebrate the birth of Christ in a manner similar to the shepherds who visited Mary’s Child more than two millennia ago.

“Just as Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the cold and in the dark, so this year Ukrainians are approaching Christmas in similar way,” said the Nuncio, making reference to Pope Francis’ letter to Ukrainians published on 25 November.

“For believers, especially for Christians, this is also a way of being spiritually united with the Holy Family because of how they experienced Christmas.”

Archbishop Kulbokas added that the war has encouraged many people to return to their faith, and now Christmas will offer a glimpse of light in the “midst of so much suffering.”

Sign of Pope’s closeness at Christmas

The people of Ukraine have received a special sign of Pope Francis’ presence, as his Papal Almoner, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, makes a Christmas visit to bring humanitarian aid in the form of generators and thermal jackets.

Archbishop Kulbokas praised the Polish-born Cardinal for personally making several trips between Ukraine and Poland to distribute the much-needed generators throughout various regions.

“It will be wonderful to celebrate Christmas together with Cardinal Krajewski, and to share our solidarity with the Catholic community,” he said.

Christian solidarity has been on display in Europe throughout the 10-month war, as many people both welcome Ukrainian refugees and send humanitarian aid. And Pope Francis has sought to keep the war on people’s minds, making frequent appeals nearly every time he speaks in public.

Joy of Christ’s birth

Safety has become a major concern for people across the country, according to the Lithuanian-born Nuncio.

“Now in Ukraine, when we send each other Christmas greetings, I have noticed that priests and even other believers often write on the cards, ‘We wish you a safe Christmas.’”

Even though trauma abounds from the frequent sight of death and destruction, hope remains rooted in the celebration of Christmas, he noted.

“I have personally seen several boys and girls who, despite the ongoing suffering, retain a look of hope,” he said. “So, for them, Christmas remains Christmas. There is the great desire to experience Christmas and to feel the joy of Jesus, of the Son of God being born for us.”

Appeal for Christmas

Asked what appeal he would make for Christmas, Archbishop Kulbokas urged everyone to pray for priests in the country, some of whom have gone missing, and to entrust themselves to God in the midst of suffering.

“My great appeal is this: to have great faith, great trust in Jesus. And for those who are not Christians, please have great trust in God and never cease to pray for peace.”

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24 December 2022, 13:09