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Leader of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church: Our priests and nuns will stay with our people

As fear and anxiety over a possible Russian invasion continue to permeate Ukraine, Aid to the Church in Need hosted a virtual conference about the Church's experiences of eight years of armed conflict in the country.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, described the situation on the ground and explained how the Catholic Church and other religious institutions are responding.

Major Archbishop, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

“People very often are trying to see from the Churches some strong orientation: What should we do in such critical conditions? We feel our responsibility toward Ukrainian society and we are trying to project our own plan, especially when a possible full-scale military invasion of Russian troops can happen at any time.”

In response to a circulating theory that religious conflict in Ukraine is a reason for Russia's aggression, Archbishop Shevchuk strongly affirmed that there is no religious war, despite some differing views among the different Churches.

Major Archbishop, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

“In the very grassroots of Ukrainian society, between the believers, simple people, there are no divisions. Among the religious leaders in Ukraine, it is very clear that religious peace is a matter of national security. So we are avoiding any kind of conflicts among us and we are trying to foster religious peace in Ukraine as much as possible.”

Another participant in the conference was the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Msgr. Visvaldas Kulbokas. He explained that parishes and Caritas staff have a number of humanitarian assistance points along the conflict line, where they provide material, psychological and spiritual aid. 

Despite it becoming more difficult to provide assistance in occupied territory, Abp. Shevchuk says a number priests and nuns continue to serve their people there.

Major Archbishop, Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church

“Those priests who are staying there with our people, they are heroes of our times. I have to say. But that was our policy and will be our policy, even if, God forbid, a new occupation happens. We stay with our people. Our priests, our nuns, will be staying with our people.”

Both the Major Archbishop and the Apostolic Nuncio say the people of Ukraine are grateful for Pope Francis' support and prayers, and they hope he will be able to visit the country soon as a beacon of peace.