Pope Francis and Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. / Mazur/cbcew.org.uk/ Олег Чупа via Wikimedia (GFDL).
Rome Newsroom, Nov 7, 2022 / 08:39 am (CNA).
The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church gave Pope Francis a piece from an exploded Russian mine during a visit to the Vatican on Monday.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk is in Rome this week to speak with Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia about the war in Ukraine. It is his first time leaving Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24.
During their private meeting Nov. 7, the 52-year-old Schevchuk gave Pope Francis a fragment of a mine that destroyed the front of a Ukrainian Greek Catholic church in the town of Irpin, outside Kyiv, in March.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk gave Pope Francis a fragment from a Russian mine which destroyed the front of a church in Irpin, Ukraine, in March. Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
Irpin was the site of one of the first major battles after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Ukrainian forces were able to recapture the town on Mar. 28, two weeks after Russian troops had gained control of half the town.
According to a press release from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the shrapnel was “a very symbolic gift, not only because Irpin is one of the first ‘martyr towns’ affected by Russian aggression against Ukraine, but also because such pieces of landmine are extracted from the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers, civilians and children, a visible sign of the destruction and death that war brings every day.”
Recent power outages are affecting around 4.5 million Ukrainians after Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky, CNN reported.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Nov. 7 that conservative estimates count 16,462 civilian casualties in Ukraine since Feb. 24, with more than 6,400 civilians killed, including 1,731 women and 403 adolescents and children.
The Ukrainian government estimates civilian deaths to be as high as 29,000. In June, the Ukrainian government said 10,000 members of the Ukrainian forces had been killed, 30,000 wounded, and 7,200 were missing in the first three months after the invasion.
During his meeting with Archbishop Shevchuk on Monday, Pope Francis reiterated his closeness to the Ukrainian people in prayer and action. He encouraged the Ukrainian Catholic leader and his fellow bishops to carry out “an evangelical service of closeness to the suffering people,” the archbishop’s press release said.
The pope also said the Holy See is committed to promoting an end to aggression, the arrival of a just peace, and solidarity and support for the Ukrainian people.
The release said Shevchuk told Francis the war in Ukraine “is a colonial war, and the peace proposals coming from Russia are colonial peace proposals.”
“These proposals imply the denial of the existence of the Ukrainian people, their history, culture and even the Church,” the archbishop said. “It is the denial of the very right to the existence of the Ukrainian state, which is recognized by the international community with its sovereignty and territorial integrity. On this basis, the proposals of Russia lack a subject of dialogue.”
Shevchuk also presented to Pope Francis the 2023 pastoral plan of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which emphasizes service to the weakest, accompaniment for those displaced from home, and the healing of wounds caused by the war.
“I told the pope about the service of our bishops, priests, monks and nuns in the currently occupied territories. I emphasized that all our pastors stood by the suffering people. I explained that each of our cathedrals, churches and monasteries have become centers of refuge, welcome and humanitarian service,” the archbishop said.
Shevchuk has published video messages to encourage the people of Ukraine and provide information about the situation every day since Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country in February.