News & Commentary

Clergy renew calls to support Ukraine after Russian attack on civilians

Smoke rises over a residential building after a Russian missile and drone strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 29, 2023. (OSV News photo/Danylo Pavlov, Reuters)

(OSV News) — Sorrow, anger and renewed calls to support Ukraine have been issued by Ukrainian Catholic and other Ukrainian clergy, following a massive Dec. 29 attack on that nation by Russia.

More than 40 were killed and 160 wounded after Russia unleashed a wave of close to 160 drones and missiles on civilian targets across Ukraine Dec. 29, targeting several cities, including Kyiv and Lviv.

With at least 23 slain, Kyiv suffered its deadliest attack in the full-scale invasion, which launched in February 2022 and continued attacks begun in 2014 by Russia. Two joint reports from the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights have determined Russia’s invasion constitutes genocide, with Ukraine reporting some 120,301 war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine since February 2022.

In a statement issued immediately following the Dec. 29 attacks, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Galicia, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, extended his “heartfelt condolences to all those who are burying their relatives who were killed by the Russian criminal hand.”

“We send our love and deep concern to all the wounded, all those who have lost their homes, and who are grieving and crying,” he said. “Lord, take the innocent victims into your hands and heal the wounds of Ukraine! You, who were born among us as a little child, wipe away the tears of Ukraine!”

In Lviv, where at least one person was killed and 15 injured, Archbishop Ihor Vozniak of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Lviv said in a Dec. 29 statement, “When the entire world glorifies the newborn child, the enemy rages and kills the innocent.”

He denounced “the heinous terrorist attacks of the Russian military on the civilian population of our Ukraine,” saying, “the perennial enemy does not relinquish its intention to destroy us.”

In a Dec. 29 statement, the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations — which represents the various Christian, Jewish and Muslim bodies of Ukraine — categorically condemned the attacks.

The council called upon “all states of the world that declare respect for the value of human life and international law to condemn the actions of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, recognize Russia as a terrorist state, and provide Ukraine with the necessary means to protect life, including additional air defense equipment, aircraft, and all that is necessary for the defense and restoration of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

In addition, the council urged the “World Council of Churches, the Conference of European Churches, and other international interfaith organizations to consider the issue of the moral and other forms of responsibility of the Russian Orthodox Church, which through all conceivable means supports the Russian aggression against Ukraine, incites ethnic and interfaith hatred, and, through preaching of the ideology of the ‘Russian world,’ incites genocide of the Ukrainian people.”

“In this context, we recall the example of the actions of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Republic of South Africa to justify apartheid, for which it was rightfully condemned by the international community and expelled from the World Council of Churches,” said the council.

Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church has told followers that “sacrifice in the course of carrying out your military duty (in Russia) washes away all sins.”

Major Archbishop Shevchuk commended to God the souls of Ukrainian civilians and defenders killed in the Dec. 29 attack.

“May the Lord God take all those who have passed away into His hands!” he said in his statement. “May He bestow upon us His heavenly consolation! In prayer today, we say eternal glory to those who gave their lives for their homeland. Eternal memory to the sons and daughters of Ukraine who died during this territorial attack.”

By Gina Christian | OSV News