“People are coming together,” the church leader said in mid-March, exhausted from the grim news pouring in from eastern Europe and countless press interviews.
“People are beginning to believe in something.
“Ukraine has united the world. Ukraine has united a fractured European Union. Ukraine has strengthened the unity and resolve of NATO. Ukraine has even united Democrats and Republicans.
“We have before us a clear objective, a moral reckoning,” he said, “as the story of David standing against Goliath unfolds before all the world to see.”
Ukrainian Greek Catholic Metropolitan Borys Gudziak is pouring out his heart, soul and mind to the media — specifically but not exclusively the Catholic media — as he communicates his very Catholic understanding and messaging of Russia’s war on its neighbor and “brother,” Ukraine.
In using analogies and images familiar to Catholics worldwide, the archbishop paints a picture of a nation “on its Way of the Cross, with its eyes fixed on the risen Lord,” as he explains why he thinks Ukrainians, seemingly unafraid of death, are standing up for truth and freedom and slowing the Russian military advance — despite the odds.
In using Christian vocabulary, he challenges anyone who advocates for the commandments and the Gospel not to conclude this war on Ukraine is the work of the devil.
“What good are our gilded churches and our golden vestments if the church is not compelled to defend the innocents?” he asked. By not condemning the actions of war, “the church aids and abets the killing. … Otherwise, our witness is vapid, empty.”
The archbishop founded the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv as a laboratory to sow the seeds of a civil society in Ukraine rooted in the values of the democratic West and Catholic social teaching.
In his messaging, he informs a wide and diverse audience, challenges global church leaders to speak out against the war, especially those in Russia, and outlines the moral imperatives for a robust response.
Without the Catholic media to amplify and broadcast his message, who would hear and heed the metropolitan’s cri de coeur?
Always, CNEWA’s president, Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari, advocates three points when asked how North Americans can help, be it in Ukraine, Lebanon or Ethiopia:
- Pray, stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need.
- Read, consume media from responsible sources.
- Give, provide those most in need with help and hope.
“Consume media from responsible sources.” As members of the media, and as Catholic Christians, this is a challenge to us to report accurately, to make ourselves aware of the subtleties of every challenge and conflict, and to editorialize rarely — and make it clear when we do — so our readers may come away enriched with an awareness of the issue, cognizant of its many complexities and nuances, as well as emboldened by the Gospel to teach, preach and heal.
“God is working through all of this,” Archbishop Gudziak said, concluding the horrors unfolding in Ukraine and witnessed in real time on television and computer screens around the world, “are reinforcing for all the realization of the God-given dignity of all human beings, the need for peace and justice, and the rule of law.”
“Be not afraid to protect the innocent.”
From his office in his besieged capital city, Kyiv, Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, seemingly echoed the words of the metropolitan in his address to the U.S. Congress on 16 March: “I see no sense in life if it cannot stop the deaths.”
These are the words Catholics need to hear and heed as the people of God rally to heal the wounds of a broken world. And there is no better place to accept these imperatives than in Catholic media.
Michael La Civita is director of communications for CNEWA. This article originally appeared in The Catholic Journalist, published by the Catholic Media Association.