By Hannah Brockhaus
No one can afford to be silent in the face of the bloodshed happening in Ukraine, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, said in a video message on Saturday.
The major archbishop is based in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, where, he said on Feb. 26, the sun has risen after another difficult night.
“It rises above the Ukrainian Kyiv, Kyiv that wins. Above the city of Kyiv that has passed another night, difficult but blessed by God,” Shevchuk said, according to the Secretariat of the Major Archbishop in Rome.
In his message, Shevchuk thanked all those who have been speaking up in support of Ukraine after Russia launched a full-scale attack on the country on the morning of Feb. 24.
“In these minutes, when blood is shed on the Ukrainian land, when Patriarch Josyf’s words of ‘mountains of corpses and rivers of blood’ are repeated, in all our cities, along all the banks of our beautiful Dnipro River — from the Belarusian border through Kyiv and all the way to the Black Sea — no one has the right to stay silent,” he stated.
“Because speech can save lives,” he added. “While silence can kill.”
“Today I ask everyone who will listen to us, everyone who will hear our voice from our bleeding Kyiv: fight for peace, protect those who need your help, let us do everything so that the aggressor stops and withdraws from Ukrainian land. Whoever you are: heads of states or parliaments, politicians, military, church leaders, do your part, speak out in support of Ukraine,” he said.
Saturday marked the third day of fighting in Ukraine, where the death toll among both military and civilians continues to rise. Swaths of Ukrainians are fleeing from the eastern part of the country to the west, or to neighboring Poland. People in the cities of Kyiv and Lviv have been forced to seek safety in shelters or subway stations.
“To all those who today in various forms are supporting Ukraine, in the name of our people, in the name of our nation, in the name of the encircled Kyiv where there is fighting on the city streets, I would like to say: heartfelt thanks,” Shevchuk said.
The major archbishop also showed his appreciation for the solidarity Ukraine has received from Pope Francis, which he said has helped mobilize the support of the international community.
Shevchuk said Pope Francis personally called him on Feb. 25, and told him “I will do everything possible” to help end the conflict in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Catholic leader also thanked those who have sent him letters of solidarity.
“Ukraine is alive, Ukraine is struggling, but today we ask the world to stand in solidarity with us, and not to be silent, because the word saves, the word builds the world. While silence and indifference kill,” Shevchuk said.
He asked for continued prayers and said that Saturday would be a day of commemoration for the dead, especially the military personnel who have sacrificed their lives for Ukraine in the past few days.
Shevchuk recalled, in particular, the heroic actions of the border guards of Zmiinyi Island in the Black Sea, who died defending the border against Russian troops, and the young soldier who lost his life blowing up a bridge near the city of Kherson to stop the Russian army.
“The Ukrainian land, the Ukrainian people give us today numerous heroes like them. We pray for all those who sacrificed their lives for Ukraine. We pray for the innocent victims among civilians: women, children, elderly. Today we deliver into God’s hands those who left this world and ask that God receive them into His arms,” he said.