The head of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church has criticised the Vatican’s “ambivalence” towards the conflict in the east of his country and called on Pope Francis to take a firmer stand.
“Ukraine is in a state of shock,” said Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych. “This war has already inflicted over 6,000 deaths and left 1.5 million people displaced, a quarter of them children. In that part of the country in the hands of pro-Russian separatists, many are dying of hunger, while our priests risk their lives daily transporting supplies.”
“We understand Rome is trying to safeguard its ties with Moscow, but we also know Christ has always been on the side of those who suffer. In this conflict, it is Ukraine which is suffering – and the Holy See, whose diplomacy is service of the Gospel, should be at our side.”
The 45-year-old church leader was speaking as fighting continued, despite an official ceasefire, in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels have been battling government forces for a year. In an interview with France’s Catholic La Croix daily, the archbishop said: “We would like to see a less ambivalent policy on Rome’s part, and we have expressed this clearly. By urging respect for international law, the Holy See implicitly condemned the annexation of Crimea. But it did not condemn it word for word.”
Catholic-Orthodox ties within Ukraine have deteriorated sharply over the Moscow Patriarchate’s failure to criticise Russian aggression against Ukraine. The Greek Catholic Church, an Eastern rite Church in Ukraine, was brutally suppressed under Soviet rule.