Ukrainian Catholic leader prays at mass grave in Bucha

The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church prayed on Thursday at the site of a mass grave in the recently liberated city of Bucha.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk described his visit to the site around 15 miles northwest of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in his daily video message on April 8.

“In order to see, yesterday I personally had the opportunity to go to the tragically infamous town of Bucha, which is an open wound on the body of Ukraine,” he said.

“And there, above the open mass grave, seeing the mutilated, breathless bodies, we prayed for their eternal rest. And in that prayer I asked myself, I asked God, ‘God, what does it mean to love You and love one’s neighbor?’”

“And near this mass grave, looking at the hands of our murdered brothers and sisters, I understood one very important thing: to love your neighbor means to feel related to him. It means feeling that we are human beings together, to belong to the same human race. And where he or she rests in the mass grave, I could have been laid to rest there as well.”

The mass grave was discovered beside a church after Russian forces abandoned their positions in Bucha, which they had occupied days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Images of apparently executed civilians in the city’s streets prompted an international outcry. At his Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis deplored “the Bucha massacre,” saying that the victims’ “innocent blood cries out to heaven.”

The Kremlin has insisted that Russian soldiers did not kill civilians in Bucha and accused the Ukrainian government of staging the images.

The U.N. General Assembly voted on April 7 to suspend Russia from the organization’s top human rights body. Russia is the only second country to be suspended from the Human Rights Council, after Libya in 2011.

In his video message, Major Archbishop Shevchuk said he hoped that the killings in Bucha would strengthen the unity of the human race.

“To love one’s neighbor means to be aware of and experience one’s humanity, and thus to show one’s humanity. Therefore, says Christ, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” he said.

“Therefore, every Christian, no matter where they live on earth, whether they are Italian or German or Australian, seeing the atrocities of the occupiers in Bucha, says today: ‘I am Ukrainian.’”

“Feeling this unity in our human race with those innocent victims, the occupier is waging war against you and me, to put us in that mass grave tomorrow.”

He added: “But let us love God, Who is the source of life, not death. We ask our loving God to truly feel our oneness with our brothers and sisters, even to learn to love our enemies.”

“To love one’s enemy means to stop his murderous hand, to take away his weapon, not to give him the opportunity to kill. We ask that in the circumstances of hatred and murder of war, that we know how to love God and our neighbor, that we remain human.”

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