Pope Fancis announces special collection for victims of Ukraine conflict
Pope Francis has asked all Catholic churches in Europe to take up a special collection for the victims of the Ukraine conflict on 24 April.
Speaking to tens of thousands of Catholics in St Peter’s Square, the Pope declared: “This gesture of charity, in addition to relieving material suffering, is intended to express my personal closeness and solidarity, and that of the entire Church, for Ukraine.”
“Beyond accompanying them with my constant thoughts and prayers, I’ve decided to promote humanitarian assistance for them,” he said.
He encouraged all the faithful of Europe to make a generous contribution to the collection on the 5th Sunday of Easter. The Pope did not say how the collection money will be distributed.
The vast majority of Christians living in Ukraine are Orthodox but there are also around five million Eastern Rite Catholics who are in unity with Rome;.
Pope Francis has called attention to the violence in Ukraine, where over 9,000 people died since conflict erupted in 2013, on several occasions and called for a solution to the conflict in his Easter message.
The Pope’s announcement comes after leaders of Ukraine’s five-million Greek Catholic Church, which is in communion with Rome, objected to his meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Havana, Cuba. He said he understood why Greek Catholics might have felt “betrayed” by the declaration signed by the two leaders.
Bishop Borys Gudziak of Paris, a high ranking leader of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church, has praised Pope Francis’s appeal to raise funds to aid the people of Ukraine who have suffered two years of ongoing conflict. Bishop Gudziak, head of External Relations for the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, told Vatican Radio that the collection, “has great material significance, but even more moral significance.” He said the Pope’s decision to appeal for help and for peace in Ukraine is a natural extension of the current Jubilee Year of Mercy.