In a letter directed to Catholic Episcopal Conferences, World Religious and Political Leaders, and to all People of Good Will, issued 21 August 2014, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude + Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major-Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, appealed for prayers and support for the people of Ukraine.

He noted that for the past 9 months the Ukrainian people have been on an “arduous pilgrimage from post Soviet fear to freedom and God-given dignity.” Together they have overcome the brutal regime of former president Victor Yanukovych, but have suffered the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The continuing destabilization and terrorist activity, and especially the downing of Malasian Airlines flight 17 are signs of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

His Beatitude goes on to say that during these difficult times the Churches and religious organizations in Ukraine have stood together in common prayer, defense of civil rights, promotion of non-violence, and support of national unity through dialogue.

The situation in the annexed Crimea is particularly difficult for the native Muslim Tartars whose leaders have been exiled and barred from their homeland. The Ukrainian Catholic, Roman Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox communities in the Crimea have also been harassed, with many fleeing the area.

In Eastern Ukraine there has been much destruction of infrastructure, with many residents forced to flee. Shevchuk sights various examples of violence and intimidation against Ukrainian Catholic and Roman Catholic clergy, including the seizure of the Donetsk convent of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, and the vandalizing of the residence of the Donetsk Ukrainian Catholic Bishop. Protestants as well have suffered with the torture and murder of the sons of one pastor, as were 2 deacons from the same church.

Unfortunately, in all of this the Russian Orthodox Church leadership continues to accuse both Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches as being responsible for this violent situation.

His Beatitude concludes saying that in Ukraine they continue to pray for all the innocent victims and for peace. He appeals to those outside Ukraine to pray and support the People of Ukraine in whatever ways they can.

(Summary prepared by Archbishop Lawrence Huculak of Winnipeg)