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Do not forget Ukraine, Primate tells West

17 November 2023

Awareness is being displaced by Israel-Gaza war, he warns

Alamy

A railway carriage damaged by shelling from Russian troops is on display in front of the Mykhailivska Church in Kyiv. The carriage came under fire earlier in the war while being used to evacuate civilians from Irpen

A railway carriage damaged by shelling from Russian troops is on display in front of the Mykhailivska Church in Kyiv. The carriage came under fire ear...

THE Primate of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, Major Archbishop Svetoslav Shevchuk, has urged Western countries not to be diverted by events elsewhere. There are now predictions of a new Russian energy blockade during the coming winter.

“Faced with escalating hostilities in the Holy Land and Gaza Strip, there’s a danger that the tragedy of war in Ukraine may be forgotten at the very height of this bloody confrontation,” Major Archbishop Shevchuk said in a national message on Monday.

“Awareness of the Ukrainian people’s pain is gradually disappearing from the news in European countries, but it’s important not to allow Ukraine’s voice to be silenced. Today, our Christian conscience is tapping at the hearts of people worldwide, as we repeat once again: Ukraine is standing, fighting, and praying.”

The Archbishop delivered the appeal as heavy Russian losses were reported in fierce fighting around the largely destroyed eastern towns of Avdiivka, Bakhmut, and Kupyansk, and as the Defence Ministers from the European Union met to discuss new military-aid pledges to Kyiv.

The Archbishop had been in Brussels on 8 November, when the European Commission recommended starting negotiations on Ukraine’s EU accession under a 2023 Enlargement Package. He had conveyed to EU officials “the Ukrainian people’s unwavering desire to return to the family of free European nations”, as well as the determination of Churches and religious associations in the country to help to create a Western-style democratic society.

The Primate of the Ukrainian independent Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Epiphany (Dumenko), praised the continuing work of wartime volunteers in resisting the Russian occupation.

“We are fighting now for what our glorious predecessors also fought for — our freedom, independence, and the opportunity for future Ukrainian generations to live freely,” Metropolitan Epiphany said at an award ceremony in Kyiv, on Tuesday.

“We do not seek something belonging to someone else, only to protect what is ours and was given us by God. The Lord will certainly help us if we maintain an unshakeable faith and show our love through appropriate actions.”

On Sunday, as the first Russian missile attack against his capital in two months was blocked by air defences, President Zelensky warned Ukrainians to expect a new winter assault on power stations and energy plants in a fresh attempt by the Russians to break national morale.

“Almost halfway through November, we must be ready for the enemy to increase its drone and missile strikes on our infrastructure,” the President said in a televised address. “Russia is preparing — and here, in Ukraine, all attention should focus on defence, on responding to these terrorists, on everything Ukraine can do to get through the winter and improve our soldiers’ capabilities.”

Incidents were reported at churches and monasteries belonging to Ukraine’s Moscow-linked Orthodox Church (UOC) in Chernihiv, Chernivtsi, Uzhgorod, and other locations, as more UOC parishes seceded to Metropolitan Epiphany’s OCU, and officials took steps to secure UOC sites in expectation of a new government-backed law to curb their ties with Russia.

The UOC’s legal department said in a statement that it would continue challenging court rulings against it. A church spokesman, Metropolitan Luka (Kovalenko), accused a delegation from the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations of “openly lying and betraying the faith” for failing to report the UOC’s persecution during a recent briefing visit to the United States.

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, at a church social-ministry congress in Moscow on Sunday, called for restrictions on abortion, to boost Russia’s declining population.

On Tuesday, he met the city’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, and praised a sacral building programme that has given the capital 50 new Orthodox churches in the past five years, while many others have been renovated.

He said that Russia was witnessing “an absolutely unique civilisational phenomenon” as it shook off “the naïve postulates of atheism” and became “more and more religious”.

“What we are achieving with you isn’t just the construction of certain objects, but the construction of human souls — enhancing that moral and spiritual strength which is making our people and our society invincible,” the Patriarch told Mr Sobyanin in Christ the Saviour Cathedral, Moscow.

The Primate of the Moldovan Orthodox Church, under the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Vladimir (Cantarean), wrote to Patriarch Kirill last week, listing “fears and dissatisfactions” among local clergy about the “promotion of pro-Russian interests” in his country, as more priests and parishes announced their secession to the Romanian Orthodox Church’s Bessarabian Metropolis. Reactivated in 1992, it is a bishopric whose jurisdiction lies in Moldova and is independent of Moscow.

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