By Charles Igwe
The Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, couldn’t contain his tears as he addressed the ongoing crisis in Ukraine at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The atmosphere was deeply moving as Shevchuk’s emotions spilled over, touching the hearts of all in attendance. His tears resonated with the pain of war, the sacrifice of their people, and the heroes who daily lay down their lives so they can have a future.
This poignant moment unfolded during a Divine Liturgy at the Vatican, where hundreds of Ukrainian pilgrims from across Europe gathered to pray for an end to the conflict. They also commemorated the 400th anniversary of the martyrdom of St. Josaphat, Ukraine’s patron saint, whose remains rest in St. Peter’s Basilica.
For many of the Ukrainians present, this celebration was bittersweet, as their families remained in the midst of the war despite their own residence in Italy and other European countries.
One attendee shared a harrowing experience: “We endured an agonizing period because my mother and grandmother were in Mariupol. For two months, we had no way of knowing if they were safe. Eventually, we located them and brought them to safety. They had survived in the basement of their building for two months after a tank struck their apartment. Their escape happened just moments before another tank shell hit.”
Among those present at the Eucharist was Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the Vice Dean of the College of Cardinals and Prefect Emeritus of the Dicastery for the Oriental Churches. Major Archbishop Shevchuk expressed his gratitude for Sandri’s support during these trying times.
Shevchuk recounted, “When the war erupted, he shared my sorrow. I told him about the atrocities committed by the Russian army, which occurred just 12 miles from my home, near Kyiv.”
Cardinal Sandri reflected on his earlier visit to Ukraine with Pope John Paul II in 2001, during his time as a substitute for the Secretariat of State of the Holy See. He recalled that visit as a significant moment in Ukraine’s history, marking the country’s journey towards freedom and sovereignty.
The day was dedicated to prayer, as those in attendance fervently sought an end to the war and prayed for the safe return of their loved ones to a peaceful Ukraine.