By Christine Rousselle
The bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States issued a statement on Saturday requesting prayers as the potential of increased conflict in Ukraine comes to a head.
“Over the last few weeks, the world has become fully aware of the fact that democratic Ukraine and its freedom-loving people are increasingly surrounded by hostile military forces prone for invasion,” said the Feb. 12 statement.
The statement was co-signed by Archeparch Borys Gudziak, Archbishop of Philadelphia, Metropolitan of Ukrainian Catholics in the United States; Eparchs Paul Chomnycky, OSBM of Stamford, Benedict Aleksiychuk of St. Nicholas in Chicago, and Bohdan J. Danylo of St. Josaphat in Parma; and Andriy Rabiy, the auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia.
“We pray for the safety and courage of the people of Ukraine. We admire their faith and fortitude,” said the eparchs. “We beseech the Lord to preserve the country and its people from further invasion.”
The bishops warned that the “a full escalation of the eight-year Kremlin-led war will bring about devastating bloodshed and untold human suffering,” millions would be displaced, and that tens of thousands of people could die.
“The economic and political shockwaves of the social devastation and material destruction in Ukraine will be worldwide,” said the bishops.
Over the last week, the situation in Ukraine has become more fraught as the threat of a full-scale Russian invasion looms large. More than 100,000 Russian troops have assembled on the Ukrainian border.
The United States announced Feb. 11 that all U.S. citizens in Ukraine should leave as soon as possible. Most staff in the American embassy in Kyiv were evacuated Feb. 12.
The bishops said they were not writing the statement “as politicians nor strategists,” but rather as pastors and people of faith.
“We appeal to you and to all people of good will to pray for peace and justice in Ukraine,” said the statement.
They further requested that all Ukrainian Greek Catholic parishes, religious communities, families, as well as the individual faithful begin “a three-day vigil of prayer for peace and the conversion of the hearts of those who preach violence and escalate war” starting Feb. 13.
“Ukrainian faithful of all confessions have witnessed miracles,” said the bishops, noting that in recent history the Iron Curtain collapsed, the “Soviet prison of nations” was dissolved, and Churches were liberated.
These things “occurred without war and bloodshed,” the bishops remarked.
As the bishops announced their prayer vigil request with about a day’s notice, they said that it could be observed “in whatever way is possible” for families, parishes, and communities. The bishops suggested that churches should be open throughout the day.
“Conduct and participate in services, pray the Jesus Prayer, the Marian Rosary, the Paraclesis, sit with the Scriptures,” said the statement. “Fast in order to focus on the hope that only God gives.”
“Pray and be full of hope,” said the bishops. “Share that hope. Know the Lord and God’s love for the world!”
(SOURCE: CATHOLIC NEWS AGENCY)