Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk

Archbishop of Kyiv: “Ukraine is suffering because an aggressor wishes to destroy our state”

The major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, has denounced that “Ukraine is suffering because an aggressor wishes to destroy our state – a state which is a common good not just for Ukrainians in Ukraine, but for all people, regardless of religious or national origin”.

Driving the news

Shevchuk spoke to the censor.net news agency August 14 as Russian-backed forces resumed deployments and shelling in eastern Ukraine, as the Catholic News Service reports.

At the same time, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry denounced violations of a ceasefire between the Ukraine and separatists defending the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics”.

The big picture

The conflicts in these proto-states have “cut a live scar” through the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Shevchuk lamented.

The major archbishop added that 11 parishes are now under separatist control, cut off from their bishop, who is barred from visiting.

Five more parishes in Crimea – annexed by Russia in 2014 – are now under the “personal care” of the Vatican, Shevchuk said.

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Go deeper

But as to Ukraine’s next move as fighting intensifies in the region, Shevchuk was clear that by no means can it contemplate capitulation.

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“However hard we try to heal the wounds of war, it will have no definitive effect until the aggressor stops inflicting these wounds”, the archbishop warned.

“Peace cannot mean capitulation and submission – this would be an imitation peace with consequences worse than war itself. … It would just be a change in how people are wounded”, he added.

“We know from history that appeasing the aggressor merely fuels his appetite. It’s very important to talk about the pain our people suffer and to remember, when we negotiate with such an aggressor, the eyes of a mother who’s lost her son in the war. We must be the voice of these affected people. Until they are honored and rewarded for the wrong done to them, what justice can they expect?”, Shevchuk explained.

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What’s next

Shevchuk said he was pleased that new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is treating the five-year-long war as “his most important challenge”.

The archbishop said the president is receiving the vision of Ukrainian Catholics on the conflict through talks and exchanges.

Shevchuk’s reflections came after more than fifty religious and non-governmental organisations adopted a resolution July 25 calling on Russia “to stop political persecution and immediately release all Ukrainian citizens imprisoned for political reasons” in Russia and in occupied Crimea and Donbas.

The resolution also calls on the European Union to appoint a Special Representative to Crimea and Donbas and on other international organisations such as the UN or the Red Cross to offer humanitarian aid.

According to UN figures, some 13,000 soldiers and civilians have been killed and 30,000 injured in the war in eastern Ukraine.

The fighting there continues between 60,000 Ukrainian troops and 35,000 Russian soldiers, separatists and foreign mercenaries along a 400-km front.

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