Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, told Aid to the Church in Need that Ukrainians were hoping that Pope Francis would visit their country.
He said: “Just as [the pope] recently visited Iraq, just as he will be going to visit different countries in the world in spite of the difficulties presented by COVID, so Ukraine is expecting the Holy Father to visit.”
The archbishop noted that Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal invited Pope Francis to visit the country during a meeting at the Vatican in March.
“I recall how one old woman recently approached me to say, ‘When the Holy Father comes and touches Ukrainian soil, then the war will come to an end,’” Shevchuk said.
Ukraine and Russia have observed a fragile ceasefire since the 2015 Minsk II Accords. The conflict began after the November 2013 demonstrations, known as “Euromaidan”, against then Ukrainian President Víktor Yanukovych for his pro-Russian policies. The protests led to Yanukovych’s departure.
This was followed in 2014 by the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia and the proclamation of independence of the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk in the Donbas region.
Archbishop Shevchuk told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that Catholics in Ukraine had been “praying incessantly for peace” since the conflict began and wanted the international community to be more involved in its resolution.
Pope Francis prayed for reconciliation between Ukraine and Russia in his Regina Coeli address on April 18.
“I follow with great concern the events in some areas of eastern Ukraine, where violations of the ceasefire have multiplied in recent months, and I observe with great concern the increase in military activities,” he said.
“I strongly hope an increase in tensions will be avoided, and, on the contrary, that gestures be made that are capable of promoting mutual trust and fostering reconciliation and peace, which are so much needed and so much desired.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.