25 February 2022, The Tablet

Catholic charities appeal for funds to help Ukraine

Catholic charities appeal for funds to help Ukraine

Nuns from the Order of St Basil the Great on pilgrimage in Ukraine, pictured hours before the invasion began.
CNS photo/Sister Anna Andrusiv, via catholicphilly.com

Catholic charities Depaul International and Aid to the Church in Need are among those organisations helping those under siege in Ukraine as Russian troops close in on Kiev. And in a highly-unusual move, Pope Francis personally visited the Russian Embassy to the Holy See to “express his concern” about Ukraine.

A spokesperson for the Depaul team in Kharkiv said: “We are seeing tanks on our roads – six or seven tanks in the road and there is shelling with parts of Kharkiv being hit.

“Everyone is sheltering in the metro stations underground. Our staff are safe and well and are still managing to run a homeless shelter, we are taking it in turns to go there. We must continue to serve the homeless people who are coming. 

“We can still drive but there is no petrol anywhere. For now we can use banking systems, but most shops are shut, and pharmacies too. There are strikes and shelling. There are big traffic jams from Kharkiv towards Kiev and in Odessa too, but many people are staying local and sheltering. Many people move and arrive in the West of Ukraine.”

The homelessness charity works in Odessa, Kharkiv and Ivano-Frankivsk territories. It is remaining in place, offering emergency shelter, advice and food to homeless people across Ukraine, and urgently appealing for funds  as the situation escalates.

Fr Vitaliy Novak CM, chair of the Trustees for Depaul Ukraine, currently in Odessa, said: “There are missile strikes, one after the other, the roads are dangerous. Overnight they are predicting heavier fighting. In Kharkiv we are seeing tanks on our roads and there is regular shelling. Many people are sheltering in the metro stations underground. We are shocked and desperate. But we stand firm, keeping our homeless shelters and services going, taking it in turns to visit and staying safe so we can keep supporting people. It is more important than ever before. We will not leave until we have no other choice. Homeless people here have no information – we are a lifeline to them, providing warmth, shelter, food and protection.”

ACN is sending emergency support to Ukraine. “The situation is getting worse every day,” said Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk of Kharkiv. “We live now from hour to hour.” ACN committed one million euros to support the work of the Church in Ukraine on Thursday, and is accepting help raising funds to assist the Church in the country. The support will aid the 4,879 priests and religious brothers and 1,350 religious sisters in Ukraine. The group will also provide aid to the four Greek-Catholic exarchates and the two Latin dioceses in Eastern Ukraine.

At least 137 people have been killed already in the attacks by Russian forces.

Most Ukrainians are members of the Orthodox Church but about 9 per cent of the population is Catholic, most belonging to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church with some in Latin Rite churches also and a small number in other Catholic churches such as Ruthenian and Armenian.

Dr Taras Khomych, from Lviv in Ukraine who is a priest at Liverpool’s Ukrainian Catholic parish based at St Sebastian church, and a senior lecturer in theology at Liverpool Hope University, said: “Putin is trying to deny the human dignity of Ukrainians. It’s devil’s work to deny this. In Greek, the word for devil is diávolos and it means ‘the one who divides’, ‘the one who disperses’, ‘the one that leads to destruction all the way to death’. This is what is happening in Ukraine right now, but also everywhere else where Putin tries to influence – Georgia, Kazakhstan, Syria. Everywhere, he brings destruction.

“This simply cannot last any longer. People have to stand and fight in solidarity together because Putin is not going to stop even if he captures the entire Ukraine. This is not only a war against Ukraine, and it’s a war against values we need to defend.” A Divine Liturgy will take place at Liverpool’s St Oswald’s Roman Catholic Church, Old Swan, on Saturday 26 Feb, 6:30pm.

Catholic MP Tom Tugenhadt appealed on Twitter: “Share what is happening. Collect images and video. Keep records. Those who commit war crimes in Ukraine will face prosecution. Politicians, soldiers, spies and others. But we need the evidence. Please collect it. Please share it.” Yesterday he described “an overwhelming feeling of sadness at what we’re seeing in Ukraine. The human tragedy is heartbreaking and the fear for our future all consuming. But I have hope too. Freedom is a powerful force. We will prevail.”

Jewish Ukrainians will stand united with their fellow citizens in taking up arms against a Russian invasion, a community leader in Kiev, Rabbi Meir Stambler, said in an interview with The Jewish Chronicle. He called for the world to “step up for Ukraine” in the face of Putin’s threat.

Christian Aid called for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and urged the UK Government to support humanitarian efforts and welcome vulnerable people fleeing the conflict. The charity’s interim chief executive Patrick Watt said: “It is a dark and worrying time for the people of Ukraine and for everyone who believes in peace. Ukraine is witnessing a terrible humanitarian  tragedy. After an eight-year war, thousands of lives have been lost and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. All-out war is putting many more at risk. Our message is simple: immediately agree a ceasefire and unequivocally commit to protect civilians and key services. All parties must abide by international humanitarian law.”

The Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell spoke in today’s emergency date in the House of Lords. He said: “This is a dark hour for Europe. We have called on Anglican churches to make this coming Sunday a day of prayer for peace and on Tuesday encourage parishes to join with the Anglican diocese in Europe in prayer at 6pm, especially for those who minister and witness for peace in Ukraine itself where we have chaplaincies and minister alongside other denominations and faith communities. We are all invited to join with Pope Francis in making Ash Wednesday a day of fasting and prayer for peace.

“Perhaps in the West, we have taken peace for granted. The horrors being visited on Ukraine must be a wake-up call for us that peace is something you need to work at. What is happening in Ukraine is truly shocking, but, sadly it is not surprising. We have seen it coming. Ukraine now stands alone, unprotected by the treaties that protect us and allow us to believe that peace is a normal state of affairs.” 

He added: “Ukraine is not defended by NATO. What we have seen from Vladimir Putin in the last few days is a terrible, flagrant disregard of the Ukrainian people’s legitimate right to self-determination. As the noble Lady Baroness Goldie has put it, he has chosen war.”

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