Königstein, 19.05.2015 – The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, stressed during a visit to the international office of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Needthat it was important at this time in particular to be committed to reconciliation and peace. “For us Robert Schumann and Konrad Adenauer are role modelssince they initiated the process of reconciliation after the Second World War. Presidents come and presidents go, but the nations remain,” he said. Reconciliation was therefore an important goal for people in Ukraine. He warned against hatred and quoted a priest who had been abducted in Donetsk in July 2014 and was released twelve days later: “We must work on ourselves spiritually so that, when we have been released from a real prison or a real conflict, we do not end up in a prison of hatred within ourselves.”
The Major Archbishop described his ideal as “a Church that serves”. Sometimes he had the impression that “the whole world had been turned into a field hospital”. The need for comfort and aid was enormous. It was especially necessary to provide care for traumatised people, and inparticular for children. The priests were being specially trained to identify post-traumatic stress disorders and to advise those affected.
Major Archbishop Shevchuk stressed the significance of collaborating with other churches in view of the current humanitarian situation. For example, near the Russian Orthodox Svyatogorsk monastery (in Ukrainian Sviatohirsk) more than 5000 refugees had found refuge. The Catholic Church was helping to provide for them. In the past six months Caritas had opened five new offices in Eastern Ukraine. It was thus the second largest aid organisation in the region after the Red Cross. But, according to Shevchuk, Caritas was not neglecting its activities in other areas. After all, the armed conflict must not be a reason for forgetting others in need, such as the young people, the sick and specifically addicts, or prisoners.
Then the Major Archbishop expressed his great joy that the GreekCatholic Church in Ukraine will be celebrating the thousand year anniversary of the martyrdom of Saint Boris and Saint Gleb jointly with the Russian Orthodox Church. “For us as Christians this is an opportunity to join together publicly to celebrate the two brothers who emulated the passion of Christ and refused to take up the sword against their brother. This is for us a symbol of the future,” Shevchuk explained.
He thanked the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need for the speed with which it had reacted during the past year to requests for emergency aid, and he underscored the friendship which had developed over the years. He himself had already received assistance from Aid to the Church in Need as a seminarian and subsequently during his studies in Rome. “We have experienced the love and help of the workers and donors of Aid to the Church in Need for many years. This community is an important element of our strength in facing up to adversities.”
In 2014 Aid to the Church in Need was able to fund 394 projects in Ukraine with a total contribution of 5,124,211 euros. 131 of these projects alone involved assistance in constructing churches, monasteries and pastoral centres – a lot of help is still needed to reconstruct the buildings of the Greek Catholic Church, which was almost completely wiped out under communism. But investments were not only made in “bricks and mortar”. ACN also supported active and contemplative sisters with subsistence and training aid, motorisation and construction aid (a total of 44 projects). The aid organisation helps every individual seminarian to enable them to follow their vocation. 12 projects totalling 118,040 euros served as emergency aid to alleviate the effects of the political unrest in the country.