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BALTIMORE, Md. – The top-ranking Ukrainian Greek Catholic prelate in the United States on Nov. 16 encouraged U.S. bishops to continue praying for Ukraine, and invited them to travel to the Eastern European nation where they’d “be inspired” by the resilience and faith of the people.
In a presentation to the fall assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Archbishop Borys Gudziak called what’s happening to Ukrainians a genocide. The comments came a day after Russia launched approximately 100 missiles at Ukrainian cities, further damaging infrastructure.
Gudziak, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, told Crux after his presentation that U.S. bishops traveling to Ukraine would be a powerful message of solidarity.
“Ukrainians really feel supported when they meet people, not only virtually, but personally,” Gudziak said. “When they meet the friends who are supporting them, they can give a hug and get a hug and say thank you, and of course for anybody coming to Ukraine it makes the whole reality vivid.”
In May, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York was the first U.S. bishop to visit Ukraine. Gudziak, who is the president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, has made a handful of visits to Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. His next trip over there is in February, and as part of his remarks he extended an open invitation for any bishop who wishes to join him.
“We’ll see some things. You’ll be inspired, and you’ll see how much you’ve contributed to this fortitude, to this virtue, to this belief in the journey because that in the end is at the heart of people who give their lives,” Gudziak said. “They give their lives because they know there’s something more than just little me and my little chronology. There’s eternal life. It’s Christ’s life. There’s no greater love than when one gives one’s life for one’s friends.”
Gudziak highlighted in his presentation that the recent strike left 7 million families without electricity at a time of year where the temperatures can dip below zero; he likened the weather in Ukraine this time of year to that of Chicago or Minnesota. He noted that over the course of the Russian invasion 40 percent of the electric grid has been hit, over 120,000 houses have been destroyed, 1,000 hospitals and 3,000 schools damaged or destroyed, and 23 percent of the agricultural industry knocked out. The archbishop also emphasized that millions of windows are broken, and the challenge that creates especially during the winter months.
Gudziak wasn’t the only bishop to advocate for continued support of Ukrainians during Wednesday’s session. Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville of Washington, the outgoing USCCB Migration Chair, revealed that he and Gudziak sent a letter to all bishops on Nov. 1 asking every diocese in the United States to support at least one Ukrainian family.
An estimated 14 million Ukrainians have fled their homes since Russia’s invasion began early this year. More than 150,000 have resettled in the United States.
“I ask you to open your hearts for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and to encourage the faithful of your diocese to do the same,” Dorsonville said in an address to the U.S. body of bishops.
After Gudziak’s presentation, Cardinal Robert McElroy of San Diego highlighted that the Republican party took control of the House of Representatives in the recent midterm elections, and the possibility that some will now advocate for the U.S. to cut off its support to Ukraine.
“This is an instance in which justice requires resistance,” McElroy said. “The reason I want to mention this is, there is with the dawn of a new House the rumblings of cutting the support to Ukraine from the United States. And that could be very ominous in terms of the continuity of the flow of weapons in support is essential to convincing the Russians that they cannot succeed.”
“I would just urge the conference to make a very high priority to move quickly to preempt all of the ways available to us movement in that direction on our national policy,” he continued.
Gudziak expressed hope that Congress won’t cut aid to Ukraine. He told Crux that the American people and politicians are “getting the right signs and signals from Ukraine,” and that Ukrainians are doing everything that can be expected of them,” which will be “appreciated and respected.”
The archbishop added that it’s in the nation’s best interest to maintain its support for Ukraine.
“Whether it’s the strong progressives on the left, or the MAGA Republicans on the right it’s very important to understand what is at stake, and every contribution made now is much less than the cost of a possible Russian occupation of Ukraine ,” Gudziak said. “Ukraine’s victory in this war puts Russia in its place, and it puts tyranny in its place. It forces all kinds of authoritarians to rethink any aggressive, violent military ventures and it’s just also the right thing to do.”
Gudziak also shared his appreciation to the U.S. bishops throughout his address, thanking them for praying, staying informed, advocating and helping.
“I thank you for walking with the people of Ukraine, bringing down upon them the grace of God and keeping this country informed about the truth, about the virtues, and about our responsibility to stay in solidarity,” he said.
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg