Before leaving Ukraine Cardinal Konrad Krajewski recalls the profound suffering of the people, especially the women and children, but also their great faith and trust in the future. The Papal Almoner spoke to Vatican News spoke about his mission of Gospel charity, a journey made up of being with others in solidarity and hope, despite air raid sirens and the tired faces of so many women fleeing with children in their arms.
Q: Your Eminence, you are about to conclude your journey. How would you sum up your mission?
I went to Ukraine to support our brothers and sisters, to bring the Holy Father’s blessing, to be close to them, to pray with them. So we met them along with various religious leaders, we were together… And then [I went to Ukraine] also to thank the people of good will who are offering their homes to refugees, the many volunteers in Ukraine and also the many donors. There are large trucks filled with aid supplies that are constantly going to Kyiv, stopping a hundred kilometers away more or less. It has been a journey of faith, a Gospel journey, truly a religious mission.
Q: You also said it has been a journey expressing concrete closeness to the people, and Pope Francis contributed to the trucks bringing aid to Kyiv…
Yes, there were many donations, wherever we went there were people who contributed, even in a small way. Of course, the trip expressed very concrete support, but it was important above all to be with them, with the people.
The mayors and prefects of the area came with us, despite the air raid sirens warning them to take cover. We prayed and talked about the near future. There is great hope for the future but the weapons must be stopped and the sun must finally rise over Ukraine as well.
Q: What struck you most during this trip; a person, an encounter?
The images in my mind … It is always the women; even today I saw many women with children going towards the border. You can see that people are very tired from so many days of travel. But on the other hand, you experience this incredible welcome and the help. So I have to say that besides the suffering, there is also great hope and love.
Q: Is there a word or phrase that could characterize this journey? You spoke of the “weapons of faith” and mentioned several times the need to silence the real weapons in order to make those of peace, prayer and unity resound. Was this the idea of what you were trying to communicate?
Of course! I brought many rosary beads that I was also able to give to the soldiers, to the people who were leaving the country, who were going towards the Polish border. We also prayed a lot. Everywhere we put ourselves in prayer. Then I would always see tears when people would say, “Here, these rosaries are from the Holy Father who is near and prays for you.”
Q: What will be the first thing you will tell Pope Francis when you return?
I don’t know yet. I have to say that each day has been very different; today, we also woke up with sirens warning us to seek shelter immediately. So on the one hand, perhaps the joy of these encounters prevails; on the other, the sadness of the people who live in constant fear. I am leaving this country greatly inspired, because I have met people with great faith, belonging to all faiths. This too offers hope, a hope for unity.
Roads without God are destructive
On Saturday morning, Cardinal Krajewski celebrated Mass in Zhovkva, near Lviv, in the parish of St. Lawrence, on the border with Poland where many priests are working to welcome the people. In his homily in Polish, he asked where this war is coming from.
“Because there are people who do not walk in the ways of God; they have created their own ways – cursed ways, because without God. Godless ways are destructive for everyone, they destroy everything, starting with those who walk in them.”
Cardinal Krajewski stressed that despite what happens, we are called to be flowers that bloom, that offer their beauty even in difficulty because “flowers are good for every occasion: for birth, when someone has to ask for forgiveness or when one is in love.” He invited everyone to strive to go forward always with hope and strong faith.