Parishes of Europe to the rescue
(AsiaNews, Aletheia & RomeReports) – Just a few weeks ago, on the Sunday of the Divine Mercy, Pope Francis called for “a special collection in all Catholic churches of Europe on Sunday, April 24 next” to express “my personal closeness and solidarity as well as that of the entire Church to Ukraine.”
“On this day – said the Pope – which is like the heart of the Holy Year of Mercy, my thoughts go to all the people with the greatest thirst for reconciliation and peace. I think, in particular, of the drama of those who suffer the consequences of violence in Ukraine: of all those who remain in those lands devastated by the hostilities that have already caused several thousand deaths, and those many – over a million – who were driven to leave by the serious persistent situation. Those most affected are the elderly and children. In addition to accompanying them with my constant thought and with my prayer, I have decided to promote humanitarian support in their favor. To do this, there will be a special collection in all Catholic churches in Europe on Sunday, April 24. I invite the faithful to join this initiative of the Pope with a generous contribution. This act of charity, as well as alleviating material suffering, aims to express the my personal closeness and solidarity and that of the entire Church [ with Ukraine]. I fervently hope that it will help promote, without further delay, peace and respect of rights in that land, which is so tried.” (See related infographic on page 3.)
Two years of war which began with Russian incursion in the spring of 2014 have left a bleak reality in Ukraine. Thousands of people have lost their homes because of the bombings and now live in precarious conditions, some have resorting to sharing old train cars.
The World Food Programme of the UN estimates that there is a high chance that some 300,000 Ukrainians will soon begin to starve.
The armed conflict began in April 2014 supported by Moscow and the pro-Russian government in Kiev. Since then, more than 10,000 people have lost their lives, there are about 2 million refugees and internally displaced and another 3 million people need humanitarian assistance.
In an interview with Aleteia, American-born Bishop Borys Gudziak, Eparch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchy of Paris, explained the significance of the Pope’s plea.
“This appeal has material and moral significance. The country has been impoverished and battered. Approximately 50 billion dollars of infrastructure has been destroyed, which is equivalent to the annual state budget of Ukraine.”
The Bishop cited an example. “In the Donbas area, in Eastern Ukraine, there has been rocket fire almost continually for two years. There have been hot battles, tank battles, with officially approximately 10,000 people killed. Tens of thousands have been injured and maimed, and hundreds of thousands suffer from post-traumatic shock.”
Moreover, he said that the “occupation by Russian armed troops is only about 5 percent of the territory, but the war has affected an estimated five million people, half of whom have become refugees from their homes, with half leaving the country. Two million have been internally displaced, going to the free parts of Ukraine, mostly in the East but [also] throughout the whole country.”