Appeal of the Eastern Catholic Bishops of the United States for Peace in Ukraine
‘Peace, peace,’ they cry, yet there is no peace! (Jeremiah 6:14)
The Eastern Catholic Bishops of the United States, gathered in their annual meeting in St. Louis, March 21-23, declare their solidarity with the suffering nation and Churches of Ukraine. We encourage all people of good will, our priests, religious, monastics, and faithful to intensify their prayer for peace in Ukraine. A special Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine tradition was celebrated in the Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis on March 22. The Archbishop of St. Louis, Most Reverend Mitchell Rozanski, preached a moving sermon of compassion, calling for peace and justice in Ukraine. During our sessions, Archbishop Borys Gudziak, Metropolitan for Ukrainian Catholics in the US, summarized the consequences of the unprovoked Russian military aggression against its neighbor.
Initiated in 2014 and escalated to a full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, the senseless, sacrilegious Russian war has trampled international law, caused the deaths and injury of hundreds of thousands, and forced the dislocation of 14 million Ukrainian refugees and internally displaced persons. Some 150,000 residential buildings, 3,000 educational institutions, over 1,200 healthcare facilities, and close to 500 religious buildings have been damaged and destroyed. The indiscriminate and intentional bombing of civilian targets and critical infrastructure, reveals that this assault is directed not only at the Ukrainian defense forces but also at civilians, their homes, hospitals, heating plants, and electricity grids. It is a war against the general population of the country. The world has come to see and understand that the invaders seek to terrorize normal citizens: women, children, the elderly, the handicapped. Thousands of war crimes have been meticulously documented by Ukrainian and international authorities. Given the devastation inflicted by this war, as of today, the World Bank estimates that it will cost 411 billion dollars to reconstruct Ukraine.
This ruthless aggression repeats historic Russian violence against Ukraine, its people, and culture. Every time there is a Russian occupation in Ukraine—in the nineteenth, twentieth, and now twenty-first centuries—the Ukrainian Catholic Church is suffocated and rendered illegal. Ukrainian Orthodox and other communities of faith are persecuted or limited in their liberties, as is the case in contemporary Russia. In the three regions in the east—Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia—that are (partially) occupied, there are no longer any Catholic priests actively ministering, Roman or Eastern. Two priests have been arrested in November 2022 and allegedly have been tortured. Their whereabouts are unknown.
We thank the members of our Churches, all US Catholics and leaders of church institutions, and all Americans of good will who have reacted with heartfelt sympathy and singular generosity to the injustices and anguish endured by the war’s victims. Millions of Americans have contributed to humanitarian aid funds and have helped welcome over 250,000 refugees. Our colleagues in Ukraine ask us to express their profound gratitude for American and Catholic solidarity. We ask that Americans continue to pray, advocate, and help. We call on political leaders to formulate policy in support of the people of Ukraine defending the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country. The courage and sacrifice of Ukrainians calls for us to accompany them on their Way of the Cross to the Resurrection.
Along with the intrepid citizens of Ukraine we renew our confidence in the Lord’s paschal sacrifice. In Christ, the Passion always leads to new life. God’s justice and God’s truth will prevail. As we approach the salvific days of Holy Week, let us be with Jesus crucified in Ukraine. With faith, hope, and charity let us stand at the foot of the Cross. Let us stand with the people of Ukraine.
The first thing that the Risen Jesus said to his disciples is:
“Peace be with you!” (John 20:21)
Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!