Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych expressed gratitude and extended blessings on those in Ukraine and around the world who are standing in solidarity with Ukraine and defending the country against a Russian invasion.
“In this moment, which we have all lived through, this first day of war, we pray for Ukraine,” said the major archbishop in a video message, recorded at sunrise on 25 February.
The major archbishop has said he intends to remain in Kyiv with his people through the conflict. Press reports on 25 February indicated the Russian military was advancing on the Ukrainian capital, where the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection has offered citizens shelter in its crypt.
“We pray for peace in Ukraine. We pray for those who defend us,” including Ukraine’s “freedom and independence,” the archbishop continued.
The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said he spoke with the bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic eparchies of Kharkiv, Odessa and Zaporizhya, as well as with priests living in occupied eastern Ukraine, who extend “a warm greeting of joy and prayer.”
“In this tragic time, all of our hopes are in God,” he continued. “In this tragic moment, the fate of Ukraine depends on our ability to organize and act responsibly, to take the future of our country into our own hands.”
As citizens in countries around the world — including Russia — continue to hold demonstrations against Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, Archbishop Shevchuk called God’s blessing upon Ukraine, its authorities, military and their families and “all those who stand in solidarity with Ukraine.”
Later that afternoon, Pope Francis called the major archbishop to inquire about the situation in Kyiv and the status of the bishops and priests in the areas of military aggression, according to the major archbishop’s press office.
In a move unusual for a pontiff, Pope Francis made a personal visit to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See on the morning of 25 February to express his concern about the war.
Archbishop Shevchuk’s video message followed on the heels of an emotion-packed letter he issued after Russia’s invasion on 24 February, in which he defended Ukraine’s right to defend its freedom and independence, and petitioned God to protect Ukraine.
Metropolitan Onufry of Kyiv and All Ukraine, who leads the Ukrainian Orthodox Church affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate, issued a courageous message on 24 February, speaking out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Trouble has struck,” he said. “Most regrettably, Russia has begun military action against Ukraine, and in this fateful time I urge you not to panic, to be courageous, and to show love for your homeland and for one another.”
He urged his faithful to “intensify repentant prayer for Ukraine,” for its army and people, and “to forget mutual quarrels and misunderstandings and to unite in love for God and our homeland.”
“Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we appeal to the president of Russia and ask for an immediate end to the fratricidal war,” he added.
Drawing on the biblical story of Cain and Abel, he said Ukrainians and Russians “came out of the Dnieper baptismal font, and the war between these peoples is a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his own brother out of envy.
“Such a war has no justification either with God or with men,” concluded the metropolitan, who is the highest-ranking prelate of the Patriarchate of Moscow to criticize the Russian invasion.
Laura Ieraci is assistant editor of ONE.