On April 12 Ukraine’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Andrii Yurash, said his embassy “understands and shares the general concern in Ukraine” about the portrayal. His embassy is trying to explain the “difficulties” and “possible consequences” of how the Way of the Cross in Rome incorporates the situation in Ukraine.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuck of Kyiv-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said the portrayal was “untimely,” “ambiguous” and “even offensive.” He worried that the decision “does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.”
Bishop Kryvytskyi’s commentary on Facebook included a photo of Michelangelo’s Pieta.
“It seems to me that over the past 24 hours, I have done everything possible to convey the inconsistency of this liturgical gesture in the context of the terrible war and its planned possible escalation,” he said.
“I give the rest to God. I am also convinced that I did everything possible on my own behalf not to say an unnecessary word of condemnation in the direction of those who did not fully weigh all the circumstances.”
“I made a mistake trying to make my own efforts to stop the war. I sincerely hope that the organizers will still have the opportunity to correct the scenario of the Way of the Cross and avoid further disputes on this topic,” said the bishop.
Ukraine’s 44.1 million people are predominantly Eastern Orthodox, though about nine percent, about 3.6 million people, are Greek Catholics, belonging to Churches of the Byzantine rite in communion with Rome.
Catholic Churches were severely persecuted in Ukraine when the country was part of the Soviet Union. The renewal of conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the 2010s brought with it fears of ecclesial conflict and persecution.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine began Feb. 24. Russia has tried to justified the invasion with claims military forces were needed to “de-militarize” the country, to protect Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, and to prevent Ukraine from further integration with the defensive NATO alliance, among other reasons. Russia’s government has tried to avoid describing the invasion as a war.
Ukraine’s government and its supporters strongly reject Russia’s claims.
Since the invasion, more than 1,800 civilians have been killed, with numbers expected to rise as deaths are confirmed. Millions more people have been forced to flee their homes and thousands of military combatants have also died in the fighting.
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