Ukrainian Catholic leader denounces ‘horrific war crimes’ in Bucha

The aftermath of the Russian occupation of Bucha, Ukraine. The aftermath of the Russian occupation of Bucha, Ukraine. | Ministry of Digital Development Mikhail Fedorov via Wikimedia (Public Domain).

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on Sunday denounced “horrific war crimes” reportedly committed by Russian forces in a city near Kyiv.

In his daily video message on April 3, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk referred to images from the city of Bucha, around 15 miles northwest of the Ukrainian capital, and other newly liberated areas.

“Literally a few tens of kilometers from the center of Kyiv, in the liberated towns, we see horrific war crimes,” he said.

“Mass graves with hundreds of lifeless bodies. Executed people lying in the streets, sometimes with tied hands. Naked bodies of women which they did not have time to burn.”

“Europe only saw such scenes in the liberation from the Nazis. Today Ukraine is seeing this, and it is so important that the whole world sees and hears it.”

The major archbishop was speaking on the day that Ukraine’s foreign minister accused Russian forces of conducting a “deliberate massacre” of civilians in Bucha.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message on April 3, 2022.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message on April 3, 2022.

News organizations reported that at least 20 bodies dressed in civilian clothing were found in a single street when Ukrainian forces retook the city following the withdrawal of Russian combatants.

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the images from Bucha as a “punch to the gut,” while Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said that “this terrible war crime cannot go unanswered.”

Russia’s Ministry of Defense dismissed the photographs and videos from Bucha as “the latest fake by the Kyiv regime,” insisting that local residents were not harmed by Russian troops who, it said, left the area on March 30.

Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the Russian President Vladimir Putin, said on Monday that Russia “categorically rejects any accusations” that its forces carryed out mass killings of civilians.

In his message, Shevchuk thanked the European Marian Network, which unites 20 sanctuaries dedicated to the Virgin Mary in Europe, for writing a letter to Putin.

The 51-year-old Church leader described the letter from the body founded in 2003 and promoted by the Holy See as “a strong condemnation of this war and a demand to stop this terrible aggression and bloodshed in Ukraine.”

He also thanked the network for writing to European Parliament President Roberta Metsola, asking for Ukraine to be accepted into the European Union, a political and economic union of 27 member states.

Shevchuk said: “The largest Marian pilgrimage places in Europe — Lourdes in France, Fatima in Portugal, Altötting in Germany, Mariazell in Austria, Częstochowa in Poland, Loreto in Italy — pray and support Ukraine.”

“These are the centers that today shape the conscience and consciousness of Christians in Europe. We are thankful today that the conscience of true Christians of the world, of different denominations, is with us.”

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