VATICAN CITY — Mass graves and the deceased still lying along the roadside became a kind of “Way of the Cross” where Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, and Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, stopped and prayed.
Pope Francis had sent the cardinal to Ukraine to spend the Triduum and Easter with the people there as his special envoy.
On the way back to Kyiv from Borodyanka, a town that had been under control of Russian forces, the cardinal and archbishop prayed amid the ruins and bodies of those killed, including by an unmarked mass grave, he told Vatican News April 15.
“We found many dead and a grave with at least 80 people, buried without a name,” he said.
The scenes left them speechless, he said, but “Thank goodness there is faith and that this is Holy Week, Good Friday, when we can unite ourselves with the person of Christ and go up with Him onto the cross.”
“There will be the Sunday of the resurrection,” he said, and maybe then God will “explain everything to us with His love and change everything within us too, this bitterness and this suffering that we have been carrying for a few days, but particularly from today.”
He told the Vatican newspaper April 15 that many doctors and staff thanked the pope for the gift and for being close to the people there and their suffering.
He said the head of the largest cardiological hospital in Kyiv told him that, as doctors, they have to be like the Good Samaritan, which means not just helping wounded Ukrainians — both civilians and soldiers — but also Russians.
“A difficult thing for him, to perform procedures with the knowledge that he has men before him who may have killed many people,” the cardinal said.
But, he said, the doctor explained to him that this is what it means to be a doctor, a Samaritan and a human being, “despite the bitterness in the heart and the feelings one has inside.”
Cardinal Krajewski said the doctor’s words were like “pure Gospel: It is difficult, but when we follow it, it is beautiful like spring and everything blooms.”
Ukrainian Marine writes
to pope, describes Mariupol as ‘hell on earth’
A Ukrainian Marine commander pleaded with Pope Francis to do everything to save the city of Mariupol, which is close to being captured by Russian forces.
“I am turning to you for help because the time has come when prayers are not enough,” Maj. Serhiy Volyna, commander of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade, wrote in a letter published April 18 by the Ukrainian online newspaper Pravda.
The commander’s letter to the pope was also shared on Twitter by Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See. Russian forces have focused their attacks on eastern Ukraine, particularly Mariupol. If captured, the port city would connect the Donbas region with Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in 2014.
“I am a warrior. I am an officer who took an oath of allegiance to his country,” the marine wrote. “And I am ready to fight to the end. (I do so) despite the overwhelming force of the enemy, despite the inhumane conditions on the battlefield, the constant artillery and rocket fire, the lack of water, food and medicine,” he wrote.
He also wrote that while he is sure Pope Francis has seen a lot in his life, “I am sure that you have never seen the things that are happening to Mariupol, because this is what hell on earth looks like.”