15 April 2022, The Tablet

Papal almoner returns to Ukraine to lead Via Crucis

“The Pope says that a priest should have ‘the smell of the sheep’ and this is why he sent me here: to be among the people,” said Cardinal Krajewski.

Papal almoner returns to Ukraine to lead Via Crucis

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, who met refugees in Lviv, Ukraine, last month, has returned today.
CNS photo/courtesy Ukrainian Catholic Church

The papal almoner has returned to Ukraine to lead the Via Crucis in Kyiv today, taking with him a second ambulance donated by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who directs the Pope’s charities, and who visited refugees in western Ukraine earlier this month, delivered the ambulance to a cardiological hospital in the capital on Wednesday. He described it as “a symbol of the Pope kissing the feet of the Ukrainian people”.

He praised the words of the hospital’s director, who said that his staff must follow the example of the Good Samaritan and treat wounded Russians as well as Ukrainians. “These words are pure Gospel,” said the cardinal. “His was the real ‘homily’ today.”

In addition, Cardinal Krajewski announced that he would spend the Easter Triduum in Ukraine, celebrating the Good Friday service with the apostolic nuncio in Kyiv, on Pope Francis’s instruction.

“The Pope loves to say that a priest should have ‘the smell of the sheep’ and this is why he sent me here: to be among the people and not to take pictures or to travel but to stay and pray.”

The cardinal’s visit follows an appeal from the leaders of Europe’s two largest Church conferences for a ceasefire over the Easter season.

Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, and the Revd Christian Krieger, president of the Conference of European Churches, wrote to the warring governments after they made a joint visit to refugees on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

In the letter dated 11 April, they urged the Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy to observe a truce from midnight on 17 April – Easter Sunday in the Gregorian calendar – until 24 April, when Easter is celebrated in Churches which follow the Julian calendar, including the Orthodox.

“We would ask for a general ceasefire in the conflict between your two countries,” they write, “so as to give Christians in Russia and Ukraine, sisters and brothers in Christ, the opportunity to celebrate Easter in peace and dignity.”

They also asked Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to support their initiative.

This was among a number of calls from Church leaders for peace during Holy Week. The president of Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, issued “an appeal to the international community to exert every effort to bring this violence to an end, to return to dialogue, to see a brother and sister in every person”.

He was speaking after seven people were killed in the Caritas office in Mariupol, when it was hit by fire from a Russian tank.

Cardinal Tagle expressed his deep sadness at the deaths, and his gratitude to aid workers: “God will make sure that your efforts will not be in vain.”

“We honour the sacrifice of humanitarian workers by praying for them and their families,” he told the Vatican news service. “We honour them by affirming the value of the service rendered by humanitarian organisations that must be respected.”

Among other appeals to the combatants, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe issued a joint statement condemning the destruction of churches in Ukraine.

The organisations called on Russian forces “to stop the destruction of churches and places of worship, which, together with the indiscriminate killing of tens of thousands of civilians, constitute a crime against humanity.”

Ukrainian officials estimate that 60 places of worship have been destroyed since the conflict began.

Prayers for peace continued across the Church throughout Holy Week. On Wednesday, Pope Francis described the nature of Christ’s peace as distinct from one “that follows the strategies of the world” and “in reality, is only an interval between wars”.

“The way of the Lord follows the way of meekness and the cross: it is taking responsibility for others,” he said.

In London, religious leaders of different denominations met for an hour of prayer in solidarity at the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family.

Attendees included the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Anglican Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, and the Coptic Archbishop Angaelos.

Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, the Ukrainian Catholic eparch, described it as “a very moving experience to be united in prayer with so many leaders of the Churches and Christian faith communities of London”.

Parishes across the country included intercessions for Ukraine with the prayers of the faithful in their Good Friday liturgies.

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