Religious and political leaders in London joined the Ukrainian community in prayer on the first Sunday after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Archbishop of Southwark John Wilson, Canadian High Commissioner Ralph Goodale, representatives from the Ukrainian Embassy and Members of Parliament attended the morning liturgy at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic cathedral in Mayfair on Sunday, conducted by Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, the eparch of the diocese.
Archbishop Wilson delivered the homily, in which he condemned Russian aggression and assured the Ukrainian community of his prayers. “We stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart, and soul to soul,” he told the congregation at the Cathedral of the Holy Family.
The archbishop said that, although he was British by birth, he and many others had become “Ukrainian in spirit”. “We are one in faith,” he said, “one in prayer, one in grief, and one in hope.” He called the Russian invasion “outrageous before Almighty God, outrageous before the world”, and prayed “that everyone committed to war has their heart broken open to embrace peace.”
He prayed also for Russian citizens protesting against the war in Ukraine. A woman interrupted the latter part of the sermon and was ejected from the church.
Bishop Nowakowski invited several attendees to speak at the end of the service, including Mr Goodale, who spoke of the 1.4 million Canadians of Ukrainian descent and called the Russian invasion “an affront to the Ukrainian diaspora and an affront to civilised people”.
“We stand today in awe,” he said, “with great respect for the valour, courage, and tenacity of the Ukrainian people.”
A spokesman for the Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, said the Ukraine had the “undisputed moral high ground” and called Vladimir Putin a “deranged lunatic” who belonged to a “select group of tyrants”. He described how a Russian missile which landed in his family’s street in Kiev. “No moral boundaries exist now,” he said.
Other attendees included Mark Pritchard MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Ukraine, and Nickie Aiken, the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster. Ms Aiken highlighted the experience of mothers in the crisis and assured the congregation, “We will see this through,” while Mr Pritchard recalled the “palpable sense of freedom” he had felt in visits to Ukraine. He concluded: “We love you, we stand with you. God bless Ukraine.”
Prime minister Boris Johnson attended a later service at the cathedral, where he said he had never seen “so clear a distinction between good and evil”.