Ukrainian archbishop: Planned Ukrainian-Russian joint activity at Pope’s Via Crucis is ‘offensive’


ROME – According to the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the Vatican’s decision to have a Ukrainian and a Russian family participate together in a Good Friday event led by Pope Francis is “offensive.”

“I consider such an idea untimely, ambiguous, and such that it does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine,” wrote Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk in a statement released Tuesday. 

“For the Greek Catholics of Ukraine, the texts and gestures of the Thirteenth Station of this Way of the Cross are incoherent and even offensive, especially in the context of the expected second, even bloodier attack of Russian troops on our cities and villages. I know that our Roman Catholic brothers share these thoughts and concerns.”

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern-rite churches in communion with Rome, with over five million faithful worldwide and close to 4,000 priests. 

The words from the prelate came a day after the Vatican released the meditation for this Good Friday’s Way of the Cross, to be led by Pope Francis in Rome’s famous Colosseum. During the Thirteenth station, which commemorates Jesus dying on the Cross, two families – one from Ukraine and one from Russia – will carry a wooden cross.

Shevchuk said that he had already conveyed to the Vatican the numerous negative reactions of many bishops, priests, monks and nuns, and laity, all convinced that the gestures of reconciliation between the two peoples will only be possible when the war is over “and those guilty of crimes against humanity are justly condemned.”

The archbishop also asked for the Vatican’s decision to have both families carry the cross to be reviewed: “I hope that my request, the request of the faithful of our church, the request of the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine will be heard.”

Andrii Yurash, Ukrainian ambassador to the Holy See, went to Twitter to express the “general concern” in Ukraine “and many other communities about the idea to bring together Ukrainian and Russian women” to carry the Cross during Friday’s Way of the Cross. “We are working on the issue trying to explain [the] difficulties of its realization and possible consequences.”

On Tuesday, the 48th day of the war, Shevchuk said in his daily video message that Ukraine is “heroically defending itself.”

“Ukraine is standing, learning to win, Ukraine feels that it is fighting in the name of good with the evil that has come to its land,” he said.

“Today we pray to our God, who is the source of life,” he continued. 

“O God, help us in Ukraine to stop the war! Teach all people not to kill, teach us to understand that your law tells us: ‘Here I placed before you good and evil, life and death; choose good and live’. Let humanity make its choice at this crossroads today. All those who choose life, today in conscience, have a duty to support Ukraine.”

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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