The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church called on Ukrainians to pray for their enemies, while condemning the deaths of women and children during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, reported Catholic News Agency.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk on Tuesday released a video message in which he condemned the loss of life and destruction and commended the Ukrainian people for defending their country.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and comprises about 4.1 million members. It has been in communion with the Church of Rome since Union of Brest-Litovsk (1596).
“We saw destroyed schools, kindergartens, cinemas, museums, and at sunrise near Kyiv, a rocket struck the maternity ward of a hospital,” he said in a message recorded in Kyiv on March 1, according to CNA.
“Pray for our enemies”
In his message, Shevchuk, called on Ukrainians to pray for their enemies.
“I sincerely ask you: let us pray not only for peace in Ukraine, but let us pray for our enemies, for their conversion, for the conversion of Russia, as Our Lady of Fatima requested of us,” he said.
In 1917 three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, reported that they had been visited by the Virgin Mary. They said that she communicated three “secrets” to them, second of which concerned the conversion of Russia:
The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays.
A tribute to the heroism of the Ukrainian people
Shevchuk applauded “the heroism of our simple people,” which stood up to heavily armed Russian soldiers on February 28.
“The residents of the city of Berdyansk [in southeastern Ukraine] with bare hands cast out an army bearing weapons with the slogan ‘Berdyansk is Ukraine!’ And above the city hall, the Ukrainian flag was left to wave,” he said.
“Truly, the words of Christ are being fulfilled: ‘No one has greater love than this: that someone would lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13),” he said.
“We see that not hatred, but love conquers. Love gives birth to heroes, but hatred to criminals.”
“That is why I encourage all of us: let us learn to love in this tragic time. Let us not be taken captive by hatred. Let us not use the language of hatred, nor its words. As ancient wisdom says, the one who hates the enemy is already overcome by him,” he said.
Archbishop releases graphic video
Later that day, CNA reported, the archbishop released a video that appears to show scenes of doctor trying to revive children who had been killed during the invasion. Warning: the video is graphic.
“At the request of His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk we share a video that collects the shocking scenes of the drama of children victims of war in Ukraine. The sad toll is getting worse every day: so far 16 children have been killed and 45 injured; thousands are forced to flee their homes, sleep in subways and underground shelters,” reads the explanation accompanying the release of the video.