Pope Francis has called for today to be a day of prayer for peace in Ukraine as the threat of Russian troops invading the Eastern European country continues to rise.
The Right Reverend Kenneth Nowakowski is the Eparchial Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London, and he has spoken with the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales about the alarming situation in Ukraine, the prayer initiatives and live streams for the day, the history of the crisis, how we can respond in England and Wales and the long-term pathway to peace.
“We can pray along with the Ukrainian people and people of goodwill throughout the world for peace because it will not only be Ukrainians or Ukrainian citizens who will suffer in this, it’ll also be Russian citizens whose fathers, brothers, husbands will be involved in the fighting and will also be suffering,” said Bishop Nowakowski.
“Any form of peace starts at home, in your own heart, in the community that you live in. If we live in a country of peace, if we live in a community of peace, if we live in our homes in peaceful ways, this will affect the way the world also lives. So I think the first thing is to make sure that we are a peaceful people, a peace-loving people, a people that know how to cooperate with each other, that respect each other – that is an example for the world.”
12-hour Prayer Marathon
Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk, is leading a prayer marathon in which every archeparchy and eparchy of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church will take part.
The prayer marathon begins at 9am Kyiv time (7am in the UK) and lasts 12 hours. You can watch a live stream on Zhyve TV on Facebook.
I’m very pleased to be able to talk with you about the situation that is developing in Ukraine. I’m Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop for Ukrainian, Slovak and Belarusian Greek Catholics in Great Britain.
The Ukrainian community here in Great Britain has a history in Manchester. They’ve just recently celebrated 100 years since the first immigrants from Ukraine arrived. This year, in June, we will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the establishment of our Church structures here – thanks to Cardinal William Godfrey, the then-Archbishop of Westminster.
Of course, our Ukrainian people are very concerned with the situation that is unfolding very rapidly in Ukraine. As we know from the news services that have announced that more than 100,000 troops of the Russian Army are gathering, or have gathered, on the borders of Ukraine and borders of Ukraine and Belarus. This is causing great concern, but this isn’t something new.
In 2014, a war was started by Russia with Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, which is territorially Ukrainian, and also Eastern Ukraine. Thousands, more than 14,000 Ukrainian people have died in this war since 2014 and more than a million people have become internally displaced – having to flee their homes in Eastern Ukraine. It is a humanitarian disaster like we have never seen before in Europe since the Second World War.
The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called for a day of prayer for peace for Ukraine on Wednesday, 26 January. Our Patriarch Sviatoslav has responded to this and we will be holding a twelve-hour marathon of prayer throughout the world in all of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchies or Dioceses – from Australia to South America, North America, Western Europe, Central Europe, and of course, Ukraine, and as far away as Kazakhstan, where our faithful reside.
Those who would like to join us here in London can come to our Cathedral located on Duke Street and Weighhouse Street off Bond Street tube station at 4:30pm where we’ll be having a special prayer service for peace in Ukraine. This will be live-streamed to all of our Ukrainian Catholic communities, not only in Ukraine, but throughout the world.
I would invite everyone of goodwill to come and join us for that prayer service at our Cathedral of the Holy Family in London.
Ukraine, of course, is the largest country in Europe, which I think is surprising for many people to find out. It is larger than Germany and larger than France and has a population of about 46 million people. It stands, in many ways, between the Russian Federation and the European Union, with its borders bordering Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Moldavia and Romania, and of course, the Black Sea and Russia on its Eastern borders.
Why is Mr. Putin so interested in Ukraine? Well, he has said that the greatest tragedy of this past century is the collapse of the Soviet Union – a statement that I think is very hard for us to understand when the greatest tragedies of this past century have to have been the Second World War, the First World War, the Holocaust, the Holodomor in Ukraine and other devastating things that have happened – including the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. So if we have a person in charge of the Russian Federation who feels that the greatest tragedy in the past century was the collapse of the Soviet Union, it’s no wonder that he is interested – at all costs – in reforming such an organisation.
Let’s be frank, war kills. People are dying. People are being maimed. Households are being destroyed. Families are being torn apart. This is a tragedy that is unfolding before our very eyes.
What can the international community do? Well, they can continue to apply pressure on Russia to stop the threat of invasion – not only to Ukraine, but to other countries.
We can pray. In fact, we know that Pope Francis has said that prayer for peace is stronger than any weapon.
What else can we do? We can pray along with the Ukrainian people and people of goodwill throughout the world for peace because it will not only be Ukrainians or Ukrainian citizens who will suffer in this, it’ll also be Russian citizens whose fathers, brothers, husbands will be involved in the fighting and will also be suffering.
We can stand up for truth. We all have heard this term “fake news” so many times over the past several years, but we can find the truth and stand for the truth. This threat of war, of course, is something that continues to cause us fear and anxiety. But fear and anxiety can be overcome when we talk about it in our community, when we pray about it in our community.
My message for not only the people of Great Britain, the Catholic community, the wider Christian community and people citizens of the United Kingdom in general, but also for the Ukrainian community, the Ukrainian Catholic community in Great Britain is… Let’s be united. Let’s understand that we have a common home; that more unites us than divides us. We live in a great country here in the United Kingdom, a country that has been welcoming people from all over the world, to live, to have a good life here in the UK – Ukrainians among them.
Once again, I would invite all people of goodwill who would like to join us in prayer at our Cathedral of the Holy Family on Duke Street and Weighhouse Street in London to do so on Wednesday, 26 January at 4:30 pm for a prayer service for peace in Ukraine.
Of course, any form of peace starts at home, in your own heart, in the community that you live in. If we live in a country of peace, if we live in a community of peace, if we live in our homes in peaceful ways, this will affect the way the world also lives. So I think the first thing is to make sure that we are a peaceful people, a peace-loving people, a people that know how to cooperate with each other, that respect each other – that is an example for the world.
One of the simplest prayers is the Jesus Prayer – the prayer of the heart – where we admit to ourselves, to our God that we are all sinners, that we all need redemption, and that we place ourselves in the loving hands of Our Lord. The prayer is one that is very simple. It doesn’t take a lot of memory and it’s a prayer that we can repeat and you can live with.
Jesus, Lord Jesus,
Son of the Living God,
have mercy on me, a sinner