Ukrainian Catholic leader: ‘May dialogue and diplomacy conquer war’

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message on Feb. 28, 2022 Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message on Feb. 28, 2022. | Screenshot from Ukrainian Catholic University YouTube channel.

The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church expressed hope on Monday that dialogue and diplomacy will “conquer war” in Ukraine.

In a video message recorded in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on Feb. 28, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk alluded to talks between representatives of Ukraine and Russia taking place in neighboring Belarus.

“We know that the alternative to war is diplomacy and dialogue. And always, at the end of war, it is necessary to sit down at the negotiating table. May dialogue and diplomacy conquer war,” he said.

Russian forces have sought to enter Kyiv, the seat of the Ukrainian government, since President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Shevchuk is issuing daily messages from Kyiv, where he is sheltering with others under the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection as the Russian military closes in on the city of almost three million people.

In his message, delivered in Ukrainian and distributed by the Secretariat of the Major Archbishop in Rome, the 51-year-old denounced the “crooked, inhumane, vicious war.”

“In these days, we saw the heroism of our soldiers. We saw the courage of our people. We saw how even elderly people laid down before tanks to prevent them from entering their village and city. As people by the village came out to close the roads to tanks advancing upon Ukraine with their very own bodies,” he said.

“We saw the beastliness and cruelty of those who are killing us. Those who are putting children and women on tanks and are using them as human shields in order to bring death and devastation to the heart of Ukraine.”

Shevchuk may have been referring to a Feb. 27 statement issued by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine accusing Russian forces advancing on Kyiv of using women and children to shield armored vehicles.

In the message, Shevchuk also expressed gratitude for Pope Francis’ appeal at his Sunday Angelus for an end to the conflict.

“I am thankful to the Holy Father who spoke once more yesterday, from the window of the Apostolic Palace, and sharply condemned the war against Ukraine,” the major archbishop said.

“He condemned those who, starting a war against other nations, are fighting against their own nation.”

“I am thankful to the Holy Father that he supports us, prays for us, and desires to do everything to stop this war.”

Shevchuk has led the world’s more than four million Ukrainian Greek Catholics since 2011. The majority of his flock lives in Ukraine, a predominantly Orthodox Christian country with a population of 44 million people.

In his message, Shevchuk endorsed a new initiative called “Return Alive from Ukraine,” which he described as a “hotline for relatives of Russian soldiers” fighting in the country.

He said that “if someone from Russia has lost contact with their children or husbands who were sent to kill in Ukraine, call that number.”

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He added: “We want to help you find either the bodies of your dead or your sons who might still be alive and return them to you from Ukraine.”

Russian officials have confirmed that their forces have suffered casualties in Ukraine. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claims that approximately 5,300 Russian troops have died in Ukraine as of Feb. 28 — a figure that has not been independently confirmed.

Concluding his message, Shevchuk said: “May the Lord God send peace into the hearts of the nations. May He stop the war. May He help us to see peace in Ukraine.”

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