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‘Ukrainian Catholic Church will be simply obliterated,’ archbishop warns

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U.S. church offers prayers, solidarity after Russia attacks Ukraine

WASHINGTON  — As war broke out in Europe, with Russia’s early morning attacks on various parts of Ukraine, Catholics in the U.S. joined Pope Francis in prayers for the people of the East European nation and for peace.

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, issued a statement :

“On behalf of my brother bishops, I echo the Holy Father’s call for prayer and fasting to end the war in Ukraine. In times of trouble, we call on the tender mercy of God … to guide our feet to the way of peace (Lk 1:78-79). May our prayers, joined with those of people around the world, help guide those waging war to end the meaningless suffering and restore peace. Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.”

News reports showed bombarded apartment buildings and towns and abandoned cities.

The number of casualties was unknown. The only thing for certain, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, is that “peace our continent has been shattered.”

Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, in a statement recalled a 2019 visit to Lviv, Ukraine, to present an award to Archbishop Borys Gudziak, now head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, for his “leadership of the first Catholic university established in the territory of the former Soviet Union.”

Father Jenkins said that during the presentation of the award, he “spoke of the innumerable challenges in a society traumatized by war, genocide and political oppression and of the efforts of Archbishop Gudziak and his colleagues to bring to Ukraine healing and hope.”

Ukraine, once part of the Soviet Union, under whose rule it suffered a famine that led to millions of deaths, voted for independence in 1991.

In a Feb. 23 interview with Relevant Radio, Archbishop Gudziak explained how Russia’s Vladimir Putin sees Ukraine as part of its territory, fomenting separatist movements in the country as he sought to absorb it.

But the archbishop called it a “ridiculous distortion of history and a negation of the human dignity of Ukrainians. Basically saying ‘you don’t exist, you didn’t exist … we’re going to use force and subdue you.'”

He also spoke of what he sees as the consequences for people of faith.

“The sad story for Ukrainian Catholics is that every time Russia takes over some part of Ukraine where the Ukrainian Catholic Church exists, sooner or later, whether it’s within a month or a year or 10 years or 20, the Ukrainian Catholic Church is simply obliterated,” he told Relevant Radio.

“And this will be the case for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which also endured great persecution, and for other people of goodwill who want to express their spiritual lives, their culture, use their language,” Archbishop Gudziak said. “It’s really devastating.”

Notre Dame’s Father Jenkins said the former oppressors of Ukraine were now known by another name “and are waging war under a different flag, but the trauma is no less today than in the past in this nation that has suffered far too much.”

“Our friends in Ukraine are in need of healing and hope,” he said in his statement. “We at Notre Dame stand in solidarity with all peace-loving people worldwide in demanding an end to this invasion of a sovereign nation. This unprovoked war is an international abomination and must stop now.”

“Until it does,” he said, “may God keep safe all of the innocent men, women and children who are currently in harm’s way.”

 

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