Faith under fire
Russian forces have targeted hundreds of religious sites in Ukraine, according to the Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF).
IRF released a report in March that said “at least” 494 religious buildings, theological institutions, and holy sites were “wholly destroyed, damaged, or looted by the Russian military.”
Another IRF report released in 2022 said that since the start of the war priests and other religious leaders in Russian-occupied territories were “tortured and killed,” while the “spiritual heritage” of Ukraine was being targeted by Russian missile attacks, shelling, and looting of religious buildings “without justification by military necessity.”
While the Russian Orthodox Church has organized humanitarian aid for impacted regions, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Christian Church in Russia, has given his support for the war.
Voices of dissent, even from Orthodox religious leaders, have been quickly quashed. As recently as Oct. 25, Russian authorities shut down Holy Trinity Parish in the occupied Ukrainian town of Irpen after the church unanimously voted to stay a part of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, according to a press release by the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow.
Along with a delegation of several religious leaders from the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, Kryvytskyi came to the U.S. for an 11-day trip to share what he called the harsh “truth” people of faith are facing amid the Ukraine war.
Kryvytskyi said that he wants the faithful in America to know the truth about the war and its impact on the Church.
“For me and for many other parishioners and faithful, this war was like a wake-up alarm,” he added. “Christ says that you don’t know the day or the hour when the Son of Man will come; in our case, that’s the reality of every day.”
“These wounds, this pain is what we encounter during our pastoral work every day,” Kryvytskyi said.
“My message today for the Americans is that Christ says: You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. I invite everyone to know this truth about the Russian aggression in Ukraine and together in Christ reach the victory over evil.”
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Vatican renews call for peace
A year and a half after Russia first invaded Ukraine, the Vatican continues to call for an end to the hostilities between the two countries.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s secretary of state, expressed support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s 10-point peace plan that was being discussed at an international conference in Malta in October.
According to reporting by Vatican News, Parolin said the peace talks are “a commendable effort, one worthy of support not only because it is aimed at offering a concrete response to various types of damage caused by the war, but also because it encourages us not to consider armed confrontation as an unavoidable tool for resolving conflicts.”
Parolin said the Holy See is especially committed to promoting peace talks focused on “resolving humanitarian issues, such as food security and preservation of the natural environment” and that the Vatican would “continue its efforts aimed at alleviating the sufferings of the Ukrainian people and the return of prisoners and children to Ukraine.”