Leading clergy in Ukraine have given poignant first-hand accounts of ministering to people terrified for their lives as their country is invaded in a deadly show of firepower.
In testimonies to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bishops and priests have described the panic that spread after the sudden invasion by Russian forces.
From Kyiv’s Bowary suburb, Pauline priest Father Roman Laba reported that at 5am on 24th February seven people died and 17 were wounded in a rocket attack, one of seven reported in the capital.
He said: “The first panic is over now – many people came to the parish looking for help and shelter and so we have set up emergency accommodation in the basement of our monastery and the unfinished monastery church. At the moment, we have around 80 people with us.”
From a village near the south-east port of Mariupol, 37 miles from the Russian border, Brother Vasyl told ACN: “Some people have come to us to make their confession for the first time in their life.
“Older and sick people are asking us to go to them and hear their confession. They want to be ready for death if it should come to that.”
He added: “We don’t have time to be frightened. We are staying and helping the people to survive the situation.”
Describing his work, evacuating children from destitute families to countryside in central Ukraine, Brother Vasyl said: “The children are all traumatised because there has been shooting in the area here. We calm them down and say that they need a break.”
His comments came after news of ACN’s emergency aid programme which will meet the essential needs in four Greek-Catholic exarchates and two Roman-Catholic dioceses covering the eastern regions of Zaporizhya, Donetsk, Odesa and Krym.
In the Kharkiv diocese, the aid will provide heating, lighting, water and food for 57 priests and 54 members of religious communities.