“But I must say that the war in the east of our country, which began in 2014, has never stopped,” the archbishop noted. “Every day our soldiers die, defending our country from Russian aggression. Now again we see long columns of Russian military vehicles heading towards the Ukrainian borders.”
He said that Ukrainians know their country is at the center of a more global conflict between the United States and Russia, but “Ukraine wants to restore just peace, our people want to be safe in their homes, and they have no interest in provoking a confrontation with the Russian Federation.”
“Above all, in this period of national fear, our Church wants to be close to her people, sharing the pain and concern of her people,” Shevchuk said.
He said that Catholics and other Christians in Ukraine had been praying and appealing for peace “incessantly” since the start of the war.
“The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has always been the Church of the people, in different periods of history we have taken on the pain of the Ukrainian people,” he said. “Today the Lord asks us to do the same.”
The archbishop explained that people living in the occupied area in eastern Ukraine were in urgent need of humanitarian aid, but access was increasingly hindered.
A lack of adequate medical care in the area has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, and Shevchuk said there were people taking advantage of the scarcity of medicines by raising prices by 200%.
“For this reason, at different levels, there are always those who are interested in the war continuing,” he commented.
Besides the threat of military clashes, he also said that children had died from accidental exposure to explosive devices.
“Ukrainian people are tired of the war caused by Russia, we want peace and we can no longer remain silent in the face of the people’s suffering and the Ukrainian mothers’ tears for the death of their children,” he said.
Shevchuk was elected major archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church -- the largest of the 23 Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with Rome -- in 2011. He succeeded Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, who retired for health reasons.
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Shevchuk’s mother died on April 12 at the age of 74 after a long illness.
“My mother worked at a music school almost all her life as a piano teacher. If we talk about the first memories, they are related to the piano. There was always music in our house. Even when my mother was doing household chores, for example, cooking in the kitchen, students would play the piano in the next room,” Shevchuk was quoted as saying on the website of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.