Ukraine’s crucifixion

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | April 12, 2022

Pope Francis: War persecutes civilians

This weekend, Christians celebrate the paschal mystery of our faith: the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through his death on the cross on Good Friday, followed by his rising from the tomb, Jesus fulfilled a promise he made: “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he …” (Jn 8:28).

The Gospel readings during these holy days paint a picture of Jesus’ last days on earth. Even though the events happened long ago, we are connected to them through Scripture and through the land in which Jesus preached: the Holy Land.

Many of the places Jesus gave sermons to crowds, walked with his disciples and prayed to his Father are sites revered and revisited by pilgrims every day. Our Christian faith can never be separated from the land where Jesus performed miracles, was persecuted and then put to death.

Today, however, when we think about persecution, we think of another part of the world, Ukraine, where our brothers and sisters are suffering their own passion and death at the hands of the Russian military.

In the weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, more than 1,800 civilians have been killed.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, who is the major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, spoke during a webinar March 29 about the suffering he has seen. His presentation was reported by Catholic News Service.

“Today, I am speaking to you from Kyiv. It’s a miracle,” he said through tears. “Forgive me for my tears, but I think I can (cry) with you. With my people, I feel an obligation to be a preacher of hope, a hope that does not come from military power or from the possibility of diplomacy — we don’t have those hopes yet — but a hope that comes from faith.”

On April 6, the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religions issued a statement calling Russia a “terrorist state.” The joint statement came days after videos and photographs from Bucha showed the torture and killing of civilians. Two days after releasing their statement, a Russian missile attack near a train station in Kramatorsk killed at least 50 civilians seeking to escape the war.

It is under these dire circumstances that Pope Francis is considering a visit to Kyiv. The topic was raised April 7, when Ukraine’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Andriy Yurash, met with the pope. “We discussed many things on the agenda right now, first of all, the possible visit of his holiness to Ukraine,” said Yurash.

Pope Francis has also been invited to Ukraine by its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and by Archbishop Shevchuk.

Nobody would blame Pope Francis for declining a trip to Ukraine, which faces increasing missile attacks from Russia. However, the pope likely sees a visit as an opportunity to show solidarity with the millions of suffering Ukrainians, as well as refugees around the world ravaged by wars.

“Jesus is crucified in the refugees who flee from bombs with children in their arms,” Pope Francis said in a Palm Sunday tweet. “He is crucified in the elderly left alone to die, in the young people deprived of a future; in the soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters.”

The stakes are high for a mission of mercy to Ukraine. This weekend, if it is God’s will, pray that Jesus’ message of peace, spoken through the vicar of Christ, Pope Francis, may be delivered personally in the days ahead. 

Pray that his words, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can put into motion a desire and a path to end senseless violence in Ukraine. Just as we celebrate new life through Christ’s resurrection at Easter, may new life, through peace, come to Ukraine.

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