Testimonies of Catholics in the field | National Catholic Registry

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KRAKOW, Poland — Since Thursday, February 24, Russia has been hitting Ukraine with airstrikes and ground forces marching to several cities, including the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, as the Western world watches. While Ukrainians had been anticipating the possibility of a Russian attack for months and actively trying to prepare for it, very few expected to be abruptly awakened from their sleep by the sound of shells that morning. .

In shocking television declaration on the night of February 23 to 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his decision to launch a “special military operation” in Ukraine to “defend” the separatist groups in Donbass, in the east of the country. Soon after, several explosions were heard in major cities across the country, including Kiev, as Russian ground troops advanced in the north, east and south of the country.

“My mother woke me up in a panic, saying something was happening,” said Darina Rebro, a Kyiv-based online ecumenical media staffer. Christians for Ukrainesaid in a February 24 telephone interview with the Register following the attack, reporting that explosives fell just three subway stations from her home.

In recent months, its media apostolate has worked with other faith communities to support an overwhelmed population with quality information, Bible-inspired news commentary, helpful advice on what to do in case of a Russian attack, where to hide and how to provide first aid.

“We lived in a situation of deep tension for months and months, and we hoped that a war could be avoided,” Rebro continued. “In the beginning, people were very scared, but fear never lasts too long; and at some point people got angry and angry and learned to defend themselves.

To date, the conflict has caused the death of at least 102 civilians (according to the UN estimates) and created hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

A curfew was introduced in Kyiv from February 26 to 28. In the streets of the Ukrainian capital, barricades were erected, and the authorities called on the population to arm themselves. The Russian and Ukrainian delegations began negotiations on the border between Ukraine and Belarus on Monday amid nuclear tension – but with no apparent prospect of a way out of the crisis at the moment.

Assistance to civilians

Meanwhile, in the rest of the country, local Catholic churches and communities are sparing no effort to help the population in their collective trial, organizing the provision of shelter to refugees as well as a range of other humanitarian and medical aid to all the civilians affected by the shelling and shooting.

Vita Jakubowska, member of the Latin Rite Catholic community of Lviv and journalist for the Catholic portal CREDO.prostated in a February 25 email to the Register that, the day before the Russian invasion, Christian Rescue Service — a fraternity founded by Ukrainian Catholics in 2015 in response to the Russo-Ukrainian War which focuses on service to the Ukrainian people in extreme conditions, especially war – managed with the help of Dominican priests to evacuate several groups of children from territories that were hit by airstrikes soon after.

The various dioceses and parishes of the country organize parallel prayer vigils, with the recitation of the rosary and votive masses for peace. In addition, the Ukrainian Catholic bishops, together with their local priests and faithful, take an active part in the current world marathon of prayer for peace in Ukraine.

“We, the clergy, priests and bishops stay with our people. We will not leave the country,” Auxiliary Bishop Edward Kawa of Lviv told the Register on February 24, in a voice tinged with both determination and concern, commenting that the Catholic Church in Ukraine “condemns without ambiguity this act of aggression against the Ukrainian state. , which has been going on for eight years now, but is intensifying today.

Standing as children of God

For his part, Andriy Olenchyk, founder of Christian Rescue Service and member of the General Chapter of the Order of the Knights of Saint John Paul II, does not mince his words in the face of what he calls “the Russian threat”, which it places alongside gender ideology, galloping Islamization and modern neo-paganism issues that require a complete return to the foundations of European Christian civilization. “We look forward to a new alliance with the peoples of the Mediterranean, with whom we are united by faith, historical memory and common challenges,” he told the Register in a February 27 conversation.

Composed of chaplains, blue helmets and socio-missionaries, this relief fraternity – which is open to Christians of all denominations – is now at the forefront of the armed clashes taking place throughout the country, initiating the creation of a network of humanitarian crisis centers relying on Catholic parishes and church communities, and helping to form local territorial defense units.

“We are convinced that in these times of adversity, we have a duty to act with courage, in the service of God and Ukraine, our homeland,” Olenchyk said. “As Christians, we cannot afford to be afraid, to hide or to flee, behaving not like children of the Promise, but like Gentiles who do not know God.”

“If we do not fully remain the light of the world and the salt of the earth in such times, then what will remain of this salt and this light?” he continued, convinced that “this is neither the time nor the place for a warm, decorative, lazy, timid, spineless, pacifist Christianity.”

Appeal to Christians around the world

Calling on Christians around the world to come together in the spirit of the revelations of Our Lady of Fatima, Olenchyk also stressed the need for them to make the voice of Ukrainians heard in their respective countries.

His call echoes that of the Auxiliary Bishop of Lviv, who also invited the faithful to take a clear position against Russian aggression, by demonstrating in the streets and “urging the leaders of Western countries to take serious measures to stop war and the suffering of innocent people. people, including women and children.

Bishop Kawa also said that apart from the need for financial and material resources Support for the refugee centers run by the Latin and Greek Catholic Churches and other communities, mainly in Poland and western Ukraine, the faithful must bear in mind that prayer remains the only tool powerful enough to end the current war.

In this regard, he urged Catholics around the world to join the upcoming World Day of Fasting for Peace wanted by Pope Francis for Ash Wednesday, March 2.

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