Msgr. Vaccari Makes Solidarity Visit to Ukraine

Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, CNEWA president, conveyed the papal agency’s unwavering solidarity to its partners and beneficiaries in Ukraine with a weeklong solidarity visit to the country’s eastern war-torn region.

The 21-28 August visit was his second to Ukraine this year. The first focused on CNEWA-funded projects in western Ukraine, while the August trip focused on the eastern regions, including the front-line cities of Irpin and Bucha, both infamous for the human rights violations committed by Russia since their invasion of Ukraine.

In Bucha, Msgr. Vaccari visited the mass burial site of 116 civilians. In Irpin, he visited the local cemetery, which has a section dedicated to those who died in the war, from 2014 to the present, as well as the “cemetery of cars,” where “Russian soldiers opened fire on all of the cars and all of the people trying to get out,” he said.

He described the marks of war he saw during his visit to Nativity of the Mother of God Church in Irpin and its food distribution program, sponsored by CNEWA through Caritas Ukraine.

While in Irpin on a solidarity visit to Ukraine, Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari visited a food box program sponsored by CNEWA through Caritas Ukraine. (photo: courtesy U.G.C.C. Information Department)

“When you walk into the church, you see all of the bullet holes of the machine guns on the walls,” he said.

Msgr. Vaccari’s visit to Kyiv coincided with Ukraine’s Independence Day on 24 August. The city announced, for the second year in a row, that there would be no public celebrations and many residents took shelter or left the capital for fear of a Russian attack.

In Kyiv, Msgr. Vaccari met with Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Two days earlier, he met with Metropolitan Borys Gudziak of the Archeparchy of Philadelphia in Morshyn, about 50 miles south of Lviv, who also was in Ukraine on a pastoral visit.

“It makes a big difference when you’re on the ground and you see what’s happening,” he said on the importance of visiting CNEWA’s partners.

CNEWA’s support to Ukraine has been ongoing since the early 1990s, but increased in 2014, after Russia’s incursion in eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Since Russia’s invasion on 24 February 2022, CNEWA has rushed $5.8 million in emergency relief to church-led efforts in Ukraine, providing food, shelter, medical and winter supplies, and psychosocial support.

“Gratitude was expressed every day at every stop,” he said about the response from beneficiaries and partners. Major partners on the ground include Caritas Ukraine, Ukrainian Catholic University, the curia of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and the eparchial curia.

“The Ukrainian people in general are a resilient people,” he said. “And the faith means everything to them.”

Msgr. Vaccari expressed his gratitude to those who make CNEWA’s work in Ukraine possible and to those who helped him along his solidarity visits, including Anna Dombrovska, programs officer for CNEWA in Canada; Tetiana Stawnychy, president of Caritas Ukraine; Nadiya Bereziuk of Ukrainian Catholic University; Father Oleh Oleksa, secretary of His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk; Father Volodymyr Malchyn, pastor and member of the curia of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and eparchial curia; the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate; and the Knights of Columbus Council in Fastiv, Ukraine.

Olivia Poust is assistant editor of ONE.

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