“The government leaders realized that hope is the thing that they need more than anything else,” Kelly said. Kelly added that Ukrainian Greek Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk told him that the government leaders expressed the same sentiments to him as well.
During the beginning of his trip, Kelly spent much time meeting with Church leaders and government officials in Poland, including the president of the country, Andrzrej Duda.
Kelly said that Duda expressed his thanks for all that the Knights have done to support the country amid the refugee crisis and spoke about his concern about the war.
“They consider it an existential threat,” Kelly said.
Duda expressed to Kelly his concern that “the West is going to forget … grow tired of the conflict and move on,” Kelly told CNA. But Kelly said he assured him that the Knights of Columbus are “here for the long haul” and will support the country throughout the crisis.
Kelly presented the president and the Polish people with the Knights’ Caritas Award. The award recognizes exemplary charity and sacrifice for others. Duda is the first head of state to receive the reward. Kelly also gifted the president with a relic of Blessed Michael McGivney, the Knights’ founder, to be placed in the Polish presidential chapel.
Part of his visit to Poland included helping create care packages at one of the Knights of Columbus “Mercy Centers” in Warsaw. Kelly spoke about his meeting with Ukrainian children refugees saying that “these children have been through a lot.”
Kelly mentioned the sad looks on the children’s faces, even as they sang Christmas carols, adding that the war has taken a toll on them. The children’s fathers are not present in the centers either because the men are not allowed to leave Ukraine, he said.
“We were talking to one of the priests who runs the facility, and he said that when the children are outside playing and a helicopter goes over, they sort of run for cover. Obviously, I think they’ve been traumatized by their experience near the war,” he said.
Kelly said that amid the suffering, he encountered the refugees’ closeness to prayer.
There’s a real sense of closeness with God with the refugees,” he said, “and that was very palpable.”
(Story continues below)
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Joseph Bukuras is a staff writer at the Catholic News Agency. Joe holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from The Catholic University of America. He has interned in the U.S. House of Representatives, on a U.S. Senate campaign, in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives, and at the Susan B. Anthony List. He is based out of the Boston area.