LVIV, Ukraine (CNS) — The head of the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine challenged the international community to “take action so that Russia immediately stops the barbaric ruination of Ukrainian cities, villages and their population.”
Metropolitan Epiphanius of Kyiv said Ukraine’s peaceful population was suffering because of the Russian invasion.
“The enemy is intentionally ruining the infrastructure, destroying civilian dwellings and is killing and terrorizing the peaceful population,” he said in a letter published by the press service of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine March 8.
The metropolitan especially cited the situation in Mariupol, which is blocked by Russian forces. The Associated Press has reported corpses lie in the city’s streets, evacuations of civilians have failed and the Russians fired on an aid convoy that was supposed to be traveling through a humanitarian corridor.
“The Ukrainian people would like to understand, why is there a system of international law, why do the United Nations, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe exist, why are the words ‘Never Again’ reiterated every May 8th?” the metropolitan asked.
“Today the legal forms are being trampled, Russia is intentionally mocking the mechanisms of the U.N. and OSCE, and all that we have read and heard from the witnesses of World War II in Europe is occurring again,” he said.
The metropolitan noted that cities were being attacked from the air as well as by conventional artillery.
“I pray for the souls of the innocent who have perished. I ask that all people of good will join in these prayers,” he said.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, at least 2 million people — nearly half of them children — have fled the country. Although Russia controls large areas in the south of the country, Ukrainians have faced strong resistance in other areas.
Meanwhile, at a March 9 intercessory prayer service at the Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Volodymyr in New York City, religious leaders, politicians and diplomats gathered to show their support for Ukraine.
Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros of America acknowledged the horrors already visited on Ukraine in less than two weeks of war, but “during each of our worship services, we pray for the peace of the whole world. Because peace is more than the balance of power and the absence of war. It is a state, a state by which God’s presence reveals itself. For Christ is our peace, writes St. Paul.”
Moreover, he said: “We are called not only to forgive our enemies but to love our enemies. We can take it one step further. Let us see no enemy in any of our sisters and brothers. Let the love of Christ break down all barriers.”
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Catholic, said she had visited Ukrainian communities in Rochester and Buffalo in recent days, noting that New York has more Ukrainians than any other state.
“Let the refugees come to New York,” she said.
Hochul said her husband, William Hochul Jr., a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York, had gone to Ukraine after the fall of the Iron Curtain “to help establish the rule of law, which is now under attack.”
“Freedom-loving nations like ours must stand in defiance and unity and ostracize those who dare breach a sovereign nation like Ukraine,” she said, adding the state would sever all its commercial ties with Russia.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York attended the service and noted: “God can bring good out of evil. We are seeing raw evil in Ukraine in its irrational invasion” by Russia, but “are we not also seeing radiant good, in that the world as united as never before?”
Cardinal Dolan said he had talked with a journalist recently returned from Ukraine. The journalist is not a religious person, but he remarked to the cardinal that “what is united in Ukraine is not only national pride, you bet. Not only language, you bet. Or economics, you bet. But what is uniting Ukraine is faith, faith. They are a deeply religious people of all different religious persuasions, but they, deep down, know the difference between good and evil, between God and Satan, between virtue and sin, between freedom and slavery, between peace and war, because they believe in God.”