14 April 2016
Christ is Risen!
On Saturday, 5 March of this year, His Beatitude Sviatoslav and members of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Catholic Church (of which I am a member) had a meeting with His Holiness Pope Francis at the Vatican. At that meeting we spoke of the horrific situation in Ukraine that has resulted in the two years of war. The death toll continues to rise, and the number of internally displaced citizens has reached in the millions. These families have had to flee their homes and cities in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine, leaving everything behind them and take refuge in other areas of the country. This of course is placing tremendous stress on the rest of the country who have opened their homes and communities to try and accommodate their fellow Ukrainian citizens. You can also imagine the trauma that these people have and are suffering; witnessing the killings, the bombings and the destruction of their homes.
His Holiness promised His Beatitude and the members of the Permanent Synod that he would not only keep our sisters and brothers in Ukraine in his prayers but would encourage the faithful to come to the aid of those in Ukraine. To this end, His Holiness announced a special collection be taken up in all of the Catholic parishes of Europe for Ukraine to assist in the Humanitarian crisis.
Caritas Ukraine, an organization that our Eparchy has been supporting over the years has taken up the challenge of assisting with the internally displaced people and working to meet the challenges of housing, food and other essentials along with also being present to those who have not been able to flee their homes in the war torn areas.
I am providing a letter from Most Rev. Borys Gudziak, who is not only the a member of the Permanent Synod and Ukrainian Catholic Bishop in Paris for Ukrainians in France but also the head of the Synod’s department of External Affairs. You will see how he elaborates more on this situation.
I have been asked by some of our faithful how they can contribute to this worthy effort. So, I would like to invite our Eparchy to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Europe in making a special collection that His Holiness requested. You may make a donation to the Papal organization, Catholic Near East Welfare Association Canada (CNEWA) for their projects with Caritas Ukraine and the internally displaced people in Ukraine. These funds are urgently needed so follow this procedure:
Make your donation cheque payable (CNEWA CANADA will issue you an income tax receipt) to: CNEWA CANADA
Place in the memo section or with a cover letter that this is a donation for Caritas Ukraine’s project for Internally Displaced people in Ukraine. You may also want to indicate that you are a member of the Eparchy of New Westminster.
Place it in an envelope addressed to:
Mr. Carl Hetu
1247 Kilborn Place
Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9
With assurance of my prayerful best wishes, and Episcopal blessings, I remain,
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Pope Francis calls for our generosity for victims of war in Ukraine
Two weeks ago, on the Sunday of Divine Mercy, at the heart of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis summoned all Catholics in Europe to recognize and respond to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, where millions of Europeans endure a undeclared hybrid war dragging on for two years. The war has claimed almost 10,000 lives. Tens of thousands are injured, hundreds of thousands traumatized.
Despite an official ceasefire agreement signed in Minsk, the war continues. The number of casualties and refugees has only increased. Take a moment to think about it: after two years of war, there are 1.7 million internally displaced people and a million refugees in neighboring countries. Half a million do not have basic food and hundreds of thousands do not have access to safe drinking water. Nearly two million remain in areas where Ukrainian and international agencies cannot freely conduct humanitarian activity. We can only guess what they are actually experiencing. These numbers are not mere statistics. Behind each figure is the tragedy of a person or an entire family.
Ukraine is emerging from a legacy of foreign totalitarian rule. During the horrific twentieth century Ukrainian Churches were outlawed, peasants killed by artificial famines, and the political, cultural, and social life of the people was devastated by genocidal and colonial policies. The country was a main theater for world wars waged by foreign powers. As a result up to 15 million people were killed.
To heal such historical trauma is extremely difficult. Terrorized for three generations, Ukrainians had fear in their DNA. Corrupt post-Soviet governments manipulated a fearful population. The pilgrimage from fear to dignity—God-given dignity—is a long, winding one. Step by step, Ukrainians have moved forward making great sacrifices for the values at the foundation of European civilization. During the Revolution of Dignity (2013-14) millions of citizens and all of the country’s Churches and religions, Orthodox, Greek and Roman Catholic, Protestants, Jews and Muslims, were together, peacefully defending the dignity of the human being, democracy, and Ukraine’s association with Europe.
In a futile attempt to stop history an authoritarian regime killed a hundred peaceful protesters on the Maidan, Kyiv’s main square. The disgraced president fled the country. Solidarity prevailed. For this the citizens of Ukraine have been violently punished: Crimea was annexed and a hybrid war was instigated in the east of Ukraine, consisting of military action, massive international propaganda and disinformation, crippling of the economy, destruction of the industrial infrastructure, and political destabilization not only of Ukraine. This destabilization campaign is aimed at a united Europe as well.
And yet the spirit, the hope, and the faith of the ordinary people remain strong. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “We give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes 1:2–3). Despite their suffering, Ukrainians believe that God has not forsaken them. Indeed, He has not forgotten them. But in this world the Lord works with human hands. Pope Francis, who for two years has repeatedly spoken about the injustices in Ukraine calling for peace, dialogue, and respect for international law, summons us to concrete solidarity.
To this end, the Holy Father has asked us to conduct a special humanitarian collection for Ukraine on 24 April in all Catholic churches in Europe encouraging all Catholics and people of good will to donate generously. For Pope Francis this gesture of charity, alleviates material suffering and manifests moral solidarity of the entire Catholic Church in Europe with the people of Ukraine.
Three things are most needed: to pray for peace and justice in Ukraine, to stay informed regarding the true situation in this ancient European land, and to show your solidarity. See the suffering of others. Open your hearts! Become the hands of the Lord!
St. Paul speaks to us: “Now as you excel in everything — in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us — see that you excel in this gracious work as well” (2 Cor 8:7).
Eparch in Paris for France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxemburg, and Switzerland
Head of the Department of External Church Relations of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church