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Keep resisting Russians, leaders tell Ukrainians

04 November 2022


Ukrainians mark All Saints’ Day in Lychakiv Cemetery at the graves of those killed in the current war with Russia

Ukrainians mark All Saints’ Day in Lychakiv Cemetery at the graves of those killed in the current war with Russia

CHURCH leaders in Ukraine have reacted defiantly to new Russian assaults on their country’s civilian infrastructure, calling on its defenders to remain confident of victory.

“We hear of our army’s successes on the battlefield — but the enemy is treacherous and cruel, and a difficult and bloody struggle continues,” the Primate of Ukraine’s independent Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), told military chaplains on Tuesday.

“We must therefore intensify our efforts, inspire our glorious defenders to liberate the motherland from occupiers, and make constant use of our first spiritual weapon: prayer to the all-merciful Lord. Following the path of truth is pleasing to God, and will lead to victory.”

The Metropolitan made the appeal as Kyiv and other cities were hit by a new wave of cruise missiles and kamikaze drones, and as many Ukrainian Christians marked All Saints’ Day with prayers for those killed in the eight-month war.

Speaking the same day to relatives of servicemen, Metropolitan Epiphany said that war losses had come at a “high cost of great grief”, but those who had given their lives protecting Ukraine “would like us not to suffer for them, but to fight on”.

Meanwhile, the Primate of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, warned that Russian attacks on civilian targets would merely strengthen national resistance, and called on citizens to respond by conserving energy. “The enemy thinks he will intimidate Ukrainians and break down our yearning for freedom,” he said in his daily message.

“But with each attack, Ukraine grows stronger — and, with every new effort to save electricity and observe our laws during this war, the more we will strengthen our country in the face of this cruel aggressor.”

At least 50 missiles hit critical facilities across Ukraine on Monday, leaving 80 per cent of Kyiv residents without water, and about 350,000 apartments with no electricity, the capital’s mayor, Vitaliy Klitschko, said.

The strikes, which followed a drone attack on Russia’s Black Sea fleet in occupied Crimea, also targeted power installations around Kharkiv, Vinnytsia, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, and Lviv, as Ukrainian forces continued advancing on the Russian-occupied southern port of Kherson, and European Commission officials visited Kyiv to discuss energy security with President Zelensky.

Ukraine’s SBU intelligence agency said that it had begun criminal proceedings against 33 Moscow-linked Orthodox clergy for supporting Russia’s attacks, while the country’s Prosecutor General, Andriy Kostin, told the news agency Interfax that more than 300 wartime “acts of genocide” were under investigation.

In his Monday message, Archbishop Shevchuk said that each day this week had been set aside for specific prayer intentions, culminating on Sunday with prayers for Ukraine’s “integrity, indivisibility, and unity”.

He also warned, however, that Moscow’s withdrawal from a Black Sea Grain Initiative in July, allowing Ukrainian agricultural exports, had raised fresh fears of food shortages around the world, as Ukraine itself prepared to mark the centenary of a Soviet-era 1932-33 famine, in which millions died.

As grain exports were halted on Wednesday, Christian Aid warned that Russia’s “unilateral suspension” of the initiative, brokered by Turkey in July, would deal a “body blow” to countries “already reeling from spiralling energy and food prices”.

Amid growing criticism of Russian church leaders’ support for the war, Orthodox churches in Geneva and Leipzig were daubed in graffiti this week, as officials in Norway said that they would investigate media claims that Russian Orthodox clergy were buying properties close to NATO military bases for possible surveillance use.

In his Angelus address on Tuesday, the Pope urged prayers for “martyred Ukraine”. He told a Ukrainian priest at a meeting of Rome theology students that his Church sought to be a “creative mother of peace” by supporting prayers for both victims and aggressors.

Speaking last week, the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, welcomed a Kremlin offer to remain “open to all contacts”, including possible talks with Pope Francis. The Cardinal told Italian media that the Holy See would act “if any small gap opens up”.

In a Facebook message, however, Metropolitan Epiphany deplored that his country was again having to “expel invaders”, eight decades after ridding itself of German occupiers, and warned that all those giving and carrying out orders to “kill and maim the innocent” would face “inevitable and eternal retribution”.

“It’s a pity that some draw no conclusions from history’s painful lessons and the consequences of war, and that the slogan ‘Never again’ turns into ‘Let’s do it again,’” the Metropolitan said.

“It’s also a pity that fascism, a misanthropic totalitarian regime with its aggressive policy, its crimes against humanity, its wars of aggression and terrorism against civilians, has now been revived in Putin’s Russia.”

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