The Archbishop of Southwark and the Mayor of London were among the guests at an interfaith service for peace today at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Family in the capital.
He was joined by ecumenical representatives, including the Anglican Bishop of Fulham, Jonathan Baker, Archbishop Nikitas of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain, and Fr Bohdan Matwijiwczuk of the autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church, besides Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark.
Other guests included Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of the New North London Synagogue, and civic dignitaries including Mayor Sadiq Khan, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Vadym Prystaiko, and the former prime minister, Boris Johnson.
There were 160 children in the congregation from St Mary’s Ukrainian School, a Saturday school in west London founded in the 1950s to promote the country’s language and culture in the UK.
A choir of schoolchildren sang the Ukrainian hymns “O, in the meadow a red kalyna” and “Through the fields of Ukraine walked the Mother of God”.
At the end of the service, the cathedral’s Vivo choir led a rendition of “Lord, O the Great and Almighty”, Ukraine’s spiritual anthem.
There were 461 paper angels strung on wires across the body of the cathedral. These, said Bishop Nowakowski, had been made by children of the Ukrainian community to commemorate the 461 children “known to have been killed by the invaders”.
During the service, the bishop prayed: “Open the eyes of those who have been overtaken by a spirit of deception and violence, that they be horrified by their works.”
Rabbi Wittenberg read from the book of Esther, including the passage: “And now, Lord God, King of Abraham, spare your people, for your enemies regard us with deadly envy and are bent upon destroying the inheritance that was yours from the beginning.” (Esther 13:15)
In his concluding prayer, the rabbi recalled the bombardment of the Babyn Yar memorial in Kyiv by Russian forces in March last year.
The memorial marks the site of Nazi massacres of Jews during the Holocaust.
Fr Jan Novotnik, a priest of the Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Church’s national ecumenical officer for England and Wales, read the beatitudes from St Matthew’s gospel (5:1-12).
In an address following the service, Mr Khan said that “London will not let Ukrainian courage go out of fashion”. He was also invited to visit the Ukrainian Welcome Centre on the cathedral premises.
The UK marked the anniversary with a minute’s silence at 11am.