It is with great interest and hope that Ukrainians in Western Europe follow the events of the last two months in Ukraine: they follow and participate in them. Millions of our citizens in Ukraine have expressed their civic position peacefully, even festively, making their way like pilgrims on the sometimes daunting road towards God-given dignity. Your dignity has become a celebration of our dignity. Therefore, it is with anxiety and anguish that we observe, along with the rest of the world, the events which have recently taken place.
The bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Western Europe fully support the head of the UGCC, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, all the bishops, priests, religious and laity of our Church in Ukraine, which was suddenly once again threatened by the state.
The Church is not a political body. However, the Church is called to serve society and to be a rightful part of it. Its mission is to be with the people, especially with those who suffer. Our church wants to be responsible for its faithful, for all men of good will, and for the future of Ukraine. We are guided by the words of Pope Francis who said that “the shepherd must feel the smell of his sheep.” With Pope Francis, we prefer a wounded Church, perhaps even somewhat covered by the dust of the road and the sweat of labour, a Church that is with the people, rather than an abstract and detached Church.
With representatives of all churches and religious organizations, the Bishops of the UGCC in Europe strongly condemn murder and torture: anyone who commits such acts is responsible before God. We appeal to put a stop to bloodshed and anarchy.
We also encourage all parties to engage in dialogue. This dialogue is indeed difficult and requires patience, but in the present circumstances, any other alternative is unthinkable. Effective dialogue requires openness and sincerity, and cannot consist of a series of monologues, and even less so of blackmail by the stronger party which is moreover armed. Dialogue involves compromise, but not at the cost of truth and justice. We call on all parties to enter into a real and effective dialogue: the government, the opposition, the business community and the citizens of Kyiv and of various other Ukrainian cities, negotiating at various levels and in various formats.
We appeal to the Ukrainian leadership: you are responsible before God and men for the power which has been entrusted to you; exercise it for the good of the people, and not for their destruction. Follow the law, but never forget that if the law is unjust, it is justice itself that must prevail.
Political and social leaders must preserve the confidence of the people, their peace and their lives. The dignity and the interests of the Ukrainian people must be your reference point and the basis of all of your decisions and actions.
To the millions of those who are fighting for their dignity throughout Ukraine, we speak to you with the words of Christ himself: “Do not be afraid!” Recall the recent history of the Ukrainian nation and how it was preserved, the victorious testimonies of our martyrs and our confessors, and the history of salvation of each of us. This paschal conviction – the conviction that the cross leads to Resurrection, and that the Passion brings forth new life – can be a source of inspiration for us at this critical time which sometimes may seem frightening. The Lord has repeatedly brought us out of the house of bondage, and our pilgrimage to the “promised land” continues. We may trust that God will never abandon us.
We appeal to European citizens, states and institutions. We urge you to move to a deeper understanding of the events in Ukraine and to a more active involvement. Remember that ignorance and inaction in times of crisis can cause disasters. In the twentieth century, blood flowed in Ukraine mainly due to outside interference, but also due to external inaction, when the world was not able to hear and respond to the Ukrainian voice crying in the wilderness. The situation in Ukraine cannot be resolved without active mediation and international support. Ukrainians rely today on the effective solidarity of the international community.
Above all we encourage moral support and prayer.
The collapse of the Soviet Union, the legalisation of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and freedom for all faiths in Ukraine, the peaceful development of an independent state over 22 years, despite the many historical traumas and painful memories of past injustices – all this was given to us by the Lord. Is it not really a wonder, this peaceful solidarity that has blossomed for two months in Kyiv and other maidans in Ukraine and the world? It is not political slogans that are heard there, but the voice of God-given dignity.
People seek stable relationships in every context: interpersonal, family, social, civic, religious, national and international. This requires the grace of God, God’s will and the will of the people – in Ukraine, in Europe and worldwide. Real relationships, true human dignity and the respect for human rights require freedom, work, sacrifice and responsibility of each of us.
Otherwise, this country which gained its independence peacefully and is learning the painful lessons of democracy could become a hellish place of conflict, a field of blood. Today, in order to avoid the mistakes of the past, our common task is to keep Ukraine united and peaceful, to preserve people from death and violence, and to help restore truth and justice.
We, the Ukrainian bishops of Europe, assure you of our support and our solidarity. We promise to do everything we can to ensure that the voice of Ukrainians resonate more strongly in the countries that have been entrusted to our pastoral care. The European Greek Catholics unite with all Ukrainian churches in prayer and fasting for peace and unity in Ukraine.
Dignity and God-given truth are inalienable: dignity and God-given truth will prevail!
Munich, London, Paris, Rome, 24 January 2014
Bishop Petro (Kryk)
Apostolic Exarch for Ukrainians in Germany and Scandinavia
Bishop Hlib (Lonchyna)
Diocese of the Holy Family in London for Ukrainians in the UK
Apostolic Visitor for Ukrainians in Ireland
Archbishop Borys (Gudziak)
Bishop of the Eparchy of St. Volodymyr in Paris for Ukrainians in France, Benelux and Switzerland
Bishop Dionysius (Lyakhovych)
Apostolic Visitor for Ukrainians in Italy and Spain