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NEW YORK – More than a year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington is reminding Catholics that regardless of the amount of news coverage the war does or doesn’t receive, it’s important to draw inspiration from the affected Ukrainian civilians and children “to intensify our prayers and commitment to peace.”
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. In just over a year more than 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes. More than 7,000 civilians have been killed, and almost 12,000 more have been injured, according to the United Nations. However, the international organization has stated that the true number is likely to be substantially higher.
It’s been estimated by the U.S. military officials and others that military casualties between the sides total more than 200,000. And beyond casualties, infrastructure in parts of Ukraine has been decimated by shelling and other attacks from Russian forces.
Gregory was speaking at a March 7 ecumenical prayer for peace in Ukraine, where he reiterated that the U.S. Catholic Church joins in prayer with Pope Francis “that everything possible be done to foster dialogue and pathway to cooperation and peace.”
“May our Ukrainian brothers and sisters know our closeness to them and know that they are not alone,” Gregory said. “May the people of Ukraine continue to find strength to face this difficult time with hope, and may they know our heartfelt prayers for peace.”
Gregory led the prayer service alongside Archbishop Borys Gudziak, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia. Gudziak highlighted a Ukrainian attitude of putting your head down and working hard that he encouraged all people to adopt in their prayers and giving.
“Ukraine has a basic attitude. Don’t talk too much. Don’t look around to see what other people are doing. Just do what you’re supposed to do. Fulfill your vocation,” Gudziak said. “And we appeal to all people of goodwill to do the same. Pray, and keep informed, and help in whatever way you can.”
Gudziak noted how grateful the Ukrainian people are for the prayers and solidarity with Americans, especially American Catholics. The U.S. Catholic Church has donated millions to support the people of Ukraine. Countless Americans have also opened up their homes and communities to Ukrainian refugees.
“It really has been a miracle,” Gudziak said.
Gregory lamented that the war has “completely disregarded the value of life.” He described the conflict as a terrible tragedy that has violated Ukrainians land, freedom, and dignity, and disrupted their lives. But noted also that through all of that they have “found a deeper faith in God, and confidence in God’s presence in their lives.”
Gregory was then asked how the people of Ukraine can maintain their faith and dignity in the face of such hardship and adversity, to which he responded that they’re doing it every day in the way they continue to endure and not lose hope.
“This is a time and moment for the Ukrainian moment not to lose hope, and if there’s anything that we can do, it’s to assure them that we are with them prayer, in support, financial assistance, but also showing them our great respect for them as people,” Gregory said.
When it comes to prayers and advocacy for peace, the cardinal noted that extends beyond Ukraine to countries around the world that suffer in conflict.
“We are committed to helping our neighbor, especially when they are in crises, such as in the Ukraine,” Gregory said. “We remain committed to work for justice, on the well-being of all of God’s people in every circumstance and in every country.”
“We pray this evening for comfort and wisdom, as well as the continued strength to endure,” he continued. “Our prayers are for all war and conflict to cease in every part of the world, that we may experience God’s healing and live in peace.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg