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A woman reacted in front of a residential building damaged during the Ukrainian-Russian war in Volnovakha, Ukraine on March 11.
A woman reacted in front of a residential building damaged during the Ukrainian-Russian war in Volnovakha, Ukraine on March 11.
Photo Credit: Alexander Ermochenko | Reuters via Catholic News Service

Ukrainian Catholic archbishop says the trauma of war will last decades

WASHINGTON — The archbishop who serves as a “foreign minister” for the Ukrainian Catholic Church said that Russian President Vladimir Putin did not invade Ukraine out of concern that NATO would encroach on his borders, but concern about “the disease of democracy that could spread like a virus, and that’s deadly for oligarchies and authoritarian rulers.”

A man passed debris in the village of Byshiv outside Kyiv, Ukraine on March 12.
Photo Credits: Thomas Peter | Reuters via Catholic News Service
Archbishop Borys Gudziak said that Russia needs “Ukraine’s territory, its population, its market, its technological capacity …. This country, with its seaports, helps Russia return to its nostalgic colonizing and imperial building.” Archbishop Gudziak is the Ukrainian Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia and the head of external relations for the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic Church.

In an interview March 14, Archbishop Gudziak spoke of Putin’s ruthlessness, the faith of Ukrainians, and Western leaders’ “naivete, blindness, lack of courage and capacity to act (during) 22 years of Putin’s rule.” He sprinkled the interview with Biblical references such as David (Ukraine) and Goliath (Russia), the sin of Adam, and Herod’s massacre of the Holy Innocents.

Archbishop Gudziak spoke of Russia’s “devastating air assault” targeting civilians: “a maternity hospital, schools — some 200 schools have been damaged or destroyed; it’s hitting churches; tanks are firing at apartment buildings. All of this is documented. The whole world is seeing it. What more is needed? What conscience cannot be moved to defend these innocent civilians?”

The result is a division of families, 3 million refugees, 2 million additional people displaced within Ukraine and billions of dollars of damage to infrastructure, he said.

“The psychological, social, economic devastation is incalculable,” he said. “It will take decades to deal with the trauma.”

Abp. Gudziak
Putin “has demonstrated a capacity to be utterly ruthless: killing, maiming, destroying civilian populations and civilian objects,” he said, referring to the monthlong battle to capture the Chechen capital of Grozny in 1994 and 1995 and the monthlong bombing of Aleppo, Syria, in 2016.

He said Western leaders were realizing too late that Putin could not be trusted. He cited examples of U.S. Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama — as a candidate — and Donald Trump misreading Putin. He said they had no understanding of what it took for a young man to join the KGB and stay in it and “foster its legacy” for the 22 years he has been in power. All of this has convinced Putin of the West’s weakness, “and so he will push forward in a devastating way.”

The archbishop added that the war began in March 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. “We’re into the ninth year of this.”

Throughout the war, Ukrainians have tried to maintain their faith, with priests celebrating services in private homes or in bomb shelters — he said Ukrainians were getting 5-10 bomb alerts every day.

“The rockets’ red glare helps people to pray,” he said. In those moments, people realize “our sense of great human autonomy is largely an illusion.”

“We’re actually seeing great faith, especially in those who are defending the innocent, protecting the hospitals, the refugees. There’s no greater love than that when one gives their life for one’s friend.”



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