Leading bishop urges U.S. to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine, two years into war

Bishop Zaidan Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles serves as chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. | Credit: Joe Bukuras/CNA

A leading Maronite Catholic bishop this week urged ongoing humanitarian support for the suffering people of Ukraine, two years after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. 

Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, which encompasses a large portion of the western United States from California to Ohio, said in a Feb. 23 statement that he urges “the U.S. government to do all that it can to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance quickly.”

Zaidan, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, noted that according to a recent U.N. report, the number of civilians killed and injured since February 2022 exceeds 30,000. Separately this week, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said an estimated 31,000 troops have died in the conflict. 

“Schools, hospitals, apartments, and basic infrastructure supplying power have been hit by missiles. In the face of such destruction and death, people are repeatedly displaced, insecure as to where to find safety,” Zaidan wrote. 

“The Catholic Church, including many Catholic welfare organizations, [is] trying to meet these enormous needs both within Ukraine and in other countries impacted by this war, which has raged on for two full years. The USCCB’s national collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has been critical in providing much-needed aid to the region.”

People of faith have been targeted in the conflict, Zaidan said, with reports of religious communities, particularly the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, “being attacked by Russian forces in territories they have seized,” Zaidan noted.

“Over 600 religious structures have been damaged, some occupied by Russian forces and turned into military bases. Clergy have been harassed, persecuted, kidnapped, and even killed.”

Zaidan noted that Pope Francis earlier this year said of the war in Ukraine that “one cannot allow the persistence of a conflict that continues to metastasize, to the detriment of millions of persons; it is necessary to put an end to the present tragedy through negotiations, in respect for international law.” He concluded by calling for people of goodwill to set aside Feb. 24, the anniversary of the start of the war, as a “solemn day of prayer, fasting for the end of the war, and for peace to come to this war-torn land.”

Though the U.S. bishops have continually supported humanitarian aid to Ukraine amid Russia’s war, U.S. lawmakers remain divided over the way forward in terms of military support for the embattled nation. 

President Joe Biden, a Catholic, has repeatedly appealed in recent weeks to Congress to fully pass a new aid package with $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine, which the Senate sent to the House nearly two weeks ago. Most recently, Biden is set to convene the top four congressional leaders on Tuesday to urge them to send the measure to his desk, CNN reported Monday. The measure faces opposition in the House, particularly from Speaker Mike Johnson, who has said he will not bring the bill to the House floor in its current form. 

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