Appeal to the priests about the pastoral care in the condition of war

Wednesday, 11 February 2015, 11:00
Appeal of His Beatitude Sviatoslav, the Head of the UGCC, to the priests of pastoral care in the condition of war Dear brothers in the priesthood of Christ!


During the last year pastoral practice we often face challenges and questions that we have not dealt with: mass deaths of activists at Maydan, the war in eastern Ukraine, the atmosphere of anxiety, uncertainty and fear, and therefore - the symptoms of depression and despondency in society. But at the same time we can trace in Ukrainian nations the authentic awakening of the human spirit and solidarity, the desire to work for the common good, the demonstration of worth wondering self-organization and self-sacrifice.

The confidence to the Church in society is the highest. This means that people expect from spiritual guidance the orientation points at this difficult time. Indeed, in every parish there are those who take part in military operations, their relatives or friends; many families have experienced the loss of loved ones. The war has affected all the inhabitants of our country. Even those watching the events on the East front on TV, are indirectly involved in them, and so, they are also injured.

The Church has no quick, ready-made answers to all questions. We do always have to ask the Holy Spirit to help us to fulfill God's will in our pastoral ministry in the light of Divine Wisdom. At the same time we want to single out a few problems and propose the key messages and possible solutions on them - in the light of the Word of God and the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Information warfare and counteraction to it

Modern wars are not without reason called "hybrid" because they are being led on many levels. On this type of war has said the Second Vatican Council and later the Church has taught about it: "...the difficulty of the current state and complexity of the international relations makes it possible to prolong the disguised wars, using new methods, insidious and destructive. In many circumstances, as a new way to use military actions there are terrorist acts” (Gaudium et spes, 79); "Targets of terrorist attacks are not military objects in the terms of declared war, but the places where the everyday life takes place" (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 513).

Another feature of this new type of wars is "information warfare" - multiplication of messages, often contradictory, which profoundly affect the emotional sphere of human, suppress our condition, mislead, sow panic. We have witnessed how military action in the East was preceded by unprecedented informational attack, which is further accompanying it and which is directed at different destinations: the aggressor country, Ukraine and the Western world. This tactic is not new. In due course time, St. John Paul II wrote in his letter on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II: "During World War II, in addition to conventional and chemical and biological weapons, was widely used another deadly tool - namely propaganda. Before attacking  the enemy by means of physical destruction, they attempted to break him through his moral contempt, defamation, slander, false accusations, directing public opinion to the most irrational intolerance through various forms of campaigning, focusing especially on the young".

Admittedly, the Ukrainian society was completely unprepared and too gullible, uncritical to the media and unable to resist the information war. There are cases of so-called "death watching television". Of course, the Church in a short time does not teach people media literacy, but can suggest some recipes using media that are given below:

-         Information - is a powerful weapon that kills credulous person, so the attitude towards it has to be very careful. The excessive amount of information, especially negative, is a major cause of apathy, frustration and panic.

-         It is necessary to follow certain "informational hygiene": do not view all channels and news releases, do not spread rumors, responsibly use social networks (which is one of the most manipulative communication tools).

-         It is important to protect children from injury by media reports. Parents can be advised not to leave children alone with the flow of information from the ravages of war, and in trusting conversation explain to them what is happening in the country, and invite them to a common family prayers for the dead and the wounded for ending  the war and the peace of God in Ukraine.

To "deadly" information, which is an element of propaganda and manipulation, as equally different kind of news, imbued with elements of violence and death, we are, believers, can and must oppose. The Word of God even in seemingly hopeless situations brings Good News of hope and promise of salvation. Think of all the spiritual strength that is kneaded in the words of Scripture: "Calm down and know that I am - God. I will be exalted among the nations and on the earth". The God of forces is with us, our protector – is God of Jacob" (Ps. 46, 11-12); "... Stand firm, stand firm and see the victory of the Lord will be with you. O, Judah and Jerusalem! Do not be afraid and do not be scared! Tomorrow you will advance to meet them, and the Lord will be with you"(2 Chron. 20, 17); "Those are with chariots, those – with the horses, and we are witht the name of the Lord, our God – is strong. They wavered and fell, and we stand firm and stick!"(Ps. 20, 8-10). "Victory in war is not in limitless army, but in the power that comes from heaven" (1 Mac. 3. 19); "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8, 31); "With God we will commit the exploit and he will trample our enemies" (Ps. 108.14). Therefore we strongly encourage to read the Word of God in the family that will support us in the storm and will encourage to prayer - personal and shared – for peace and blessings for our country.

Mobilization and related issues

First of all, we pay particular attention to the value and importance of Chaplain serving of our priests - either on the front or in military hospitals. We express our profound recognition and sincere thanks to all our priests, deacons and consecrated persons as an example of courage and pastoral sacrifice, they show in the current difficult circumstances. At the same time we are recalling, that the vocation of the cleric lies solely in spiritual, religious plane, so the priest can not be active participant of the military actions, he cannot use weapons, remembering that our weapon – is primarily spiritual: "... truth, justice, zealous preaching of the gospel of peace, unshakable faith as a shield and spirit sword, that is the word of God"(Eph. 6, 13-17). This "God's arm", backed by constant and enduring prayer, works of penance and fasting, can overcome the root of any conflict - human sin, so it in the hand of a clergyman is equally effective to achieve the desired victory as the hot weapon in the hands of soldiers.

The defence of the Homeland – is the right and duty of every conscious and responsible citizen. But determining the appropriateness of mobilization, declaring it and providing the mobilized with all the necessary to defend the Homeland -is a competence of the government. At the time of mobilization activities in the country we have to remember the following:

-         Priests can not be an instrument of mobilization. However, they do not dare call to avoid it, even indirectly. Herewith, pastors and church surround with perpetual prayer and substance of our concrete actions our soldiers, people affected by aggression, deal with the wounded, the families of those killed and more.Church, recognizing the right and duty of the people to defend their land, is not seeking to learn the functions of the State or its defense departments in the organization and conducting the defense. Instead, we spiritually support mobilized, their families and express gratitude of all the people of God to our fellow citizens who are willing to put their lives for their friends, according to the commandment of Christ  (Jn. 15, 13). Church puts their daily prayers for "government and all the host", and in the present dramatic circumstances  this prayer has become more zealous and insistent.

-         Together with the prayer church organizes and practices works of mercy on all who defend our country and those affected by the disasters of war. Expressing sincere gratitude to all known and unknown donors, we strongly encourage our clergy, religious and laity to continue to exercise active solidarity with the victims and as far as possible help reduce the suffering of our fellow citizens through charitable works. It is necessary to support, in particular, the wounded, costrainedly resttled people, and relatives of the victims, especially mothers, wives and children, the elderly and others.

-         Priests as blessed messengers of the peace and goodness,must have a responsible attitude to what calls they direct to the faithful from the traditional pulpit and through modern means, such as social networks. It is unacceptable for pastor, succumbing to his disordered human and crude sense, to preach intolerance, depression, aggression or hatred against anyone. Christ left by will for us to love even enemies (Matt. 5, 44), and loyalty to this commandment shows how we are His disciples, how truly we believe in the wealth of God's love, which is stronger than hatred and death itself. It is appropriate to recall the words of Metropolitan Andrey, who in no less dramatic circumstances of the Second World War, wrote to his clergy: "Hatred destroys only - nothing ever built and will not build. In our work we have to beware of all that can lead to that hatred and defend people facing true enemies and the people who make war with hatred and hatred extend. Our flag – is the flag of love. It never ever enters into an alliance with the flag of any hatred. Christian love even when defending before a real injustice of the enemy cannot stop being love, cannot approach or become similar to hatred. Love common to mankind, that embraces all people without exception, will be such an inalienable trait of Christianity, that every true Christian work has to be saturated with it"(Pastoral Letter to the Clergy"About social questions").

-         Priests should also be extremely careful in statements on matters of military action and mobilization. It is necessary to study deeply the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, in particular the criteria for moral behavior of Catholic Christians and clergy in the state of war, for not to get lost themselves, and not to push others onto the moral and spiritual circumlocution.

-         We emphasize that pastors who will depart to implement cahaplain service into the areas of hostilities must do it with a clear permission and blessing of the ruling bishop and strictly follow the instructions and rules developed by the Department of Pastoral security of power structures in cooperation with the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.

Overcoming panic, traumas and hatred

There are different kinds of traumas: some are injured by the information, someone is disoriented with difficult economic situation and does not know how to go through difficult times, someone is going through the pain of losing a loved one or a tragedy of all the people - substituted guilt ("I'm sitting in a warm house, and someone dies on the front, I'm to guilty of his death"). Trauma creates panic in the human heart and can lead to aggression or even hatred. We have in this case to reach the "spiritual first-aid kit" to get the necessary help for themselves and for our neighbors. So remember:

-         The war, into which Ukraine is involved, should be led for life and not for death: we take part in it not out of hatred to the enemies, but to defend life and our native land from devoid of moral principles aggressor.Events that we experience - is a challenge for all of us. They are temporary, despite the brutality and violence levels. The war will be over, and we can with God's help restore our country and heal the wounds on the body of our people.

-         Do not lose from the eyesight the future prospects – the prospects of peace and rebuilding of our country. Moreover, even now - each in his place - we have to build our country, about which we dream, which we want  to convey as a legacy for our children and grandchildren. We gain victory together, some with large, others with small steps: one risks his life, and someone takes a principled position on bribery or just peaceful coexistence with its neighbors, support of victims and others. War is everywhere: you can sit and be afraid, but we can and must continue to live and work for the common victory.

-         Frank sorrow for the victims (military and peaceful) does not have to cross out the optimism and genuine joy of life. The military die for the people could live, and therefore we have, remembering their sacrifice for the rescue of many lives, appreciate every single life and not to waste a minute.

-         Before the face of aggression and hatred that sow death and devastation in our land, we must not allow our hearts to be filled with negative feelings such as hatred and desire for revenge, even to enemies. Even it is worse to feel prejudice and intolerance to those of our brothers and sisters from the East, who have lost their homes, were forced to leave their side and are now forced to live among us as displaced persons. Showing our solidarity, hospitality and love we have to let them know that they are welcomed by the residents of our common home, whose name is "Ukraine". At the time, our faithful, being convicted for their beliefs to Soviet prison after completion of the sentence could not get back to Galicia, and found in other regions of Ukraine their second small homeland. Innovative experience of our emigration to Western Europe also shows how important is the openness and hospitality of the local Christian community to newcomers. Now it is our turn, who live in peaceful areas,to show the solidarity concerning those, who hostilities of alien aggressor forced to leave home. In such situations as the present, the position of bias, intolerance, aggression toward internally displaced persons would not be an expression of true patriotism, but rather - would mean cooperation with the enemy, who wants to divide our nation to its final destroy. The Scripture warns: "Because of lawlessness thriving, the love of many will cool off" (Mt 24, 12). Do not let the brutal reality of war kill in us the feelings of love and kindness, especially in relation to our fellow citizens who are our half-siblings, but not just nameless "settlers". We urge our pastors and the faithful in this tragic time to show all their Christian maturity and see in people who have left their homes, exiled and suffering Christ. Offering them your human and spiritual support, let us give our brothers and sisters to know a new mentality, a new Ukraine, which all want to live in. Use these difficult circumstances to realize an excellent call, with which we have struggled in recent years and have sustained our sovereign country, "East and West are together!" Do not give heed to what is sometimes divides us, but let’s seek and affirm all what unites us, brings together, makes related! For all of us they are not only children of the same land, but also - and above all – the children of one God to whom we turn the words of the Lord's prayer "Our Father".

Overcome evil with good: practical advice for pastors

Our response to the situation in the country should be doubled pastoral zeal, clerical service to which we are called as pastors in the Church of Christ. Among the practices of Christian life should be emphasized the most important - prayer, fasting and almsgiving:

-         "The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory is from the Lord" (Prov. 21, 31). Knowing this, cleric, religious man always and in all circumstances gives priority to prayer – the cry to God for mercy and deliverance from evil. In addition to the instructions of the diocesan bishops, let’s remind to our pastors the instructions concerning prayer for Ukraine, which had been previously given. This applies, in particular, on a daily prayer for Ukraine at 21.00, which should be served in our churches, monasteries and homes of our faithful. After each Liturgy we have to continue to pray the Church hymn-prayer "Lord, oh the Great and Almighty". Commendable and such, which belongs to distribute, is the practice of relentless prayer when the parish, monastic or prayer communities distribute the prayer among the participants during the day, to make the prayer for Ukraine continuous. Remember that faithfulness in prayer is our sacred duty and the Christian debt to soldiers who are ready to give their lives for the native people and the state.

-         The prayer has to be strengthened by fasting, sacrificing for this one day a week, according to the previously promoted distribution of fasting days in the dioceses and exarchates in Ukraine.

-          It is necessary to do charitable works and invite the faithful to them. This gust of kindness and Christian love, which has recently manifested itself among young adults and a wide volunteer movement, is a great gift to our people and a symbol of hope for the victory of good over the forces of darkness, forces that broke into our land. It is important for the pastor to be the one who knows how to ignite people to selfless service, he will give an example of such a noble position and show the different possibilities of volunteering where the greatest need is.

-         St. Paul calls the addressees of one of his letters: "Rejoice with those who rejoice; Weep with those who weep "(Rom. 12, 15), showing the importance of common experiences both happy and sad events in the life of the Christian community. Indeed, in the present circumstances it is particularly important to give to feel to the needy our closeness, support and genuine compassion. Therefore, in the context of prayer meetings or after them we need to create the opportunity for people to be together, to express their sorrows to make them feel the healing power of prayer, the Word of God and compassionate presence of brothers in faith. At the same time should be given to those who are affected directly by the war, the possibility of easy communication (e.g. "at tea"), but the priest must lead such talks, for not to make them turn into a mechanism for spreading panic.

-         It is important to conduct a memorial service for the victims for people together, not alone could experience mourning.

-         It is necessary to pay special attention to the rapid spread of alcohol abuse in this troubled time. Particularly vulnerable to this disaster are those who took part in the fighting. Pastor must remember that alcoholism is an incurable deadly disease that causes to the dependent person no less damage than the enemy bullet, and become a large disaster for the family and society. Alcohol is not a way to remove post-traumatic stress disorder, but on the contrary - it deepens it. We should strongly promote sober lifestyle, provide adequate assistance to addicts, distribute temperance movement in our church, encourage sacrifice for the good of the near personal renunciation of alcohol recording into the Parish Books of sobriety.

-         The topical is another problem regarding which it is supposed to be attentive. This refers to the tendency of people, weak in faith, to resort to various occult practices in order to "clarify the unknown issues": finding the location of missed, forecast for the war and so on. In the case of danger and anxiety some people are looking for easy answers to difficult questions, for cheap solutions in difficult situations. In this regard, we recall that any, even the most dramatic circumstances of personal or social life cannot justify the recourse to the evil forces, because such actions – is the direct communication with the devil, and they did not contribute to the victory over evil, and vice versa - multiply it. Instead, now more than ever it is necessary to appeal to the one God in full trust of Him and trust in His liberating power and healing grace.

The pastoral care of the participants of the hostility

Although our soldiers complete their sacred and civic duty to protect innocent life before the unjust aggressor, their conscience is wounded by tragic experience. Therefore, apart we want to draw our attention to some ethical aspects related to the hostilities and their direct participants.

-         Scripture reveals the special relationship of Jesus Christ to the soldiers. It is worth recalling the Roman centurion who wanted to heal his servant and trusted Christ as a force that could say, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word and my servant will be healed" (Matt. 8, 8). In addition, the first converted among the pagans was the centurion Cornelius and his family (Dee. 10). So the word of God is always with honor represents the warrior who performs his service right to the protection of innocent life and the peace. Faithfully keeping these and many other testimonies of Scripture, the Church condemns the unjust war, but never ceases to take care of those, who with arms in their hands perform the service on behalf of the legal and equitable power, to serve to peace and protect life. Therefore, any doctrine which considers calling for military service is not relevant to gospel and unreasonable.

-          The vocation of the warrior does not contradict the Christian vocation. Moreover, you can be a warrior and the holy! The Holy Father John Paul II, addressing at his time to the military gathered at the audience, said: "Who better than you, dear soldiers, can certify on violence and destructive power of evil present in the world? You fight against them every day: for you are indeed called to protect the weak, take care of the honest,  to maintain the peaceful coexistence among peoples" (Speech from November 19, 2000 on the occasion of the Anniversary of the military and police forces).

-         The Catholic Church teaches, "it is legally to demand respect to their own right to life. He, who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to put his opponent a fatal blow: "If someone for his self-defense has resorted to more violence than necessary, his actions are illegal. If he defends himself from the violence reasonably, it is permitted by law ... and it is not necessary for the salvation of the soul to refuse from such moderate protection to avoid killing the offender, as the person is obliged to protect his own life than the life of another person"(St. Thomas Aquinas. The amount of theology, 2-2, 64, 7)" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2264). Therefore, "the legitimate self-defense can be not only a right but also an important responsibility of the person who is responsible for the lives of others" (ibid, 2265).

-         There are circumstances in which the use of weapons for protection from unjust aggressor is not only valid, but the only possible (that’s why morally justified) means to stop the evil and prevent the spread of deadly aggression for many people. It is worth recalling the terms of the legal protection provided by military force. So, to make the use of weapons against unjust aggressor morally justified, it is needed at the same time: 1) damage caused by the aggressor to the nation or community of nations, should be long, difficult and indisputable; 2) if all other means for putting the end were impossible or unsuccessful; 3) to make the chances of success reasonable; and 4) the usage of the weapons should not cause the distress and confusion heavier than the calamity which should be removed. To evaluate these conditions of moral legitimacy must those, who are responsible for the common good (cf. CCC, 2309). In these cases, the public authority has the right and duty to impose on citizens the obligations necessary for national defense. Those, who devote themselves to serving the motherland through military service, are servants of the security and freedom of peoples. If they faithfully perform their duties, they actually contribute to the common good and peace (cf. Gaudium et spes, 79) (CCC, 2310).

-         For the healing of conscience it is necessary the God's action that occurs, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation. In this regard, pastors have to show patience in hearing the confessions of the combatants, encouraging and comforting soldiers and all the victims of war, pointing to the mercy of God as the source of healing physical and mental wounds and encouraging to the observance of the  moral rules also in the midst of the horrors of war.

-         Keep in mind that of that victory on the battlefield ahead is the moral and spiritual victory over the enemy, which is based on the realization of the noble works – the defence of the peace before the aggressor, on the humane treatment of prisoners and wounded, on the inadmissibility of any violence against civilians. The sanctity of human life and its commitment to protecting wherever possible, - the first and the most important rule. Even the most difficult circumstances of war should be the opportunity to show moral heroism and humanity, not to provoke the release of the blind instincts of revenge and hatred. Let them be for everyone the warning and the reference point the words of St. Paul: "Do not let evil win won, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12, 21).

 We entrust our country, our state leaders, our soldiers, pastors, chaplains and all our much-suffering Ukrainian people to mighty care of the saints and righteous of Ukrainian land, and especially - the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, crying to Her from the depths of our soul: "We have no other help, do not have other hope but You, Blessed Virgin! Help us, we hope for You and boast of You, for we are your servants, for not to be ashamed".

May the Lord bless you!

On behalf of the Synod of Bishops of the Kyiv-Galician Major Archbishopric




Given in Kyiv

at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ

February 5, 2015 year of God



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