The Papal Almoner shares his initial impressions from Ukraine, where he has arrived in order to bear witness to Pope Francis’ spiritual and material support for refugees and the whole country.
By Alessandro De Carolis
Solidarity travels along the roads threatened by bombs, where carrying boxes of food and packages of medicine can be a one-way journey.
This solidarity is sustained by the heart of Pope Francis, who has decided — in an area as large as Ukraine, where fuel already costs a small fortune — to contribute to the expenses of the large vehicles that push on, laden with aid, to where a truck risks running into a tank.
News of the Pope’s initiative arrives from the area around Lviv, where the extension of the Pope’s closeness, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, arrived on Tuesday, after a brief stop in Poland, amidst a continually growing ocean of refugees.
Having crossed the border into Ukraine, the papal almoner spoke with Vatican media about the impressive effort being made in the relative security of Lviv to reach those who are still in the crosshairs of the missiles, and who are struggling to flee along the shores of too fragile humanitarian corridors – or who are prevented from doing so.
Aid still reaching its destination
“I am situated in Lviv, [but] for security reasons we can’t say exactly where,” says the Cardinal. “This is where the large amounts of aid from the European community arrive via Poland. Everything is unloaded in large warehouses, and from here the trucks leave for Kyiv, for Odessa, for the south of the country.” The good news, says Cardinal Krajewski with satisfaction, is that “all this aid is still reaching its destination, despite the bombings.”
This has been confirmed by the bishops of Kiev, Odessa, and Karkhiv, and the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, with whom Cardinal Krajewski has been in contact. The Pope’s support has been particularly practical in this regard, he says: “Here they have difficulty in finding fuel and therefore, through the Elemosineria [the Office of Papal Charities, the Holy Father has paid for many of the journeys of the trucks that bring humanitarian aid into Ukraine.”
Cardinal Krajewski in Lviv, seen with boxes of humanitarian aid
Stopping the war with prayer
On Tuesday, his first day in Lviv, the papal almoner also met the Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the Head and Father of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
On Thursday, Cardinal Krajewski will join His Beatitude Shevchuk along with the heads of the various confessions for a moment of prayer.
“We know that faith can move mountains. Thus we read in the Gospel, and we are sure of it. I think we will succeed in stopping this war precisely with our prayer, with our faith.”
Solidarity and prayer: reasons for hope
Solidarity and prayer, which, together, give breath to hope. Hope in spite of everything is a clear incentive for many Ukrainians who have been forced to leave their homes and yet intend one day to return. At the epicentre of the exodus, this is as immediate as touching living flesh.
“Here,” says Cardinal Krajewski, “every five minutes I see refugees arriving from the eastern part of Kyiv. They are mostly women with children. Some want to enter Poland, they want to stay close to the border, but there are those who have moved here to Lviv — there is no war here yet, even though it is very dangerous — and they are waiting for liberation, they are waiting to return.”
Cardinal Krajewski, left, speaks with a young man in Lviv
Lviv, he says, now has “half a million more inhabitants” than before the invasion began. Schools, parishes, every available square metre is their temporary home. “Wherever there is a bit of space, everything is occupied by refugees who pray, who have hope, who really thank the European community that is bringing them so many donations, that is close to them, that prays for them.”
The tragedy has produced a bud, Cardinal Krajewski notes: “Never before have they felt so united: they already felt themselves to be a part of Europe; through these humanitarian gestures, now they feel they are an integral part of it.”