Christian solidarity during coronavirus changes its form but does not disappear, Head of the UGCC in an interview with Vatican News

Wednesday, 18 March 2020, 14:52
The infected, the elderly, war in the Donbas, work of Ukrainian women in Italy are the main topics of the interview of His Beatitude Sviatoslav for Vatican News during the Covid-19 time, which caused an emergency in Ukraine as well. "Christian solidarity during the coronavirus changes its form but does not disappear," the Head of the UGCC assures the Vatican News correspondent.

Recalling Pope Francis' prayer for the elderly during worship at the Chapel of the House of Santa Marta, His Beatitude says that the sick and the elderly are at the heart of the Church's social service in Ukraine. According to him, the most vulnerable and most at risk are the elderly, who are unable to leave the war zone.

In your opinion, your Beatitude, what is the time like for Ukraine now?

- Ukraine is currently discussing a possible declaration of a state of emergency. At this difficult time, we, as the Church, are trying first and foremost to help the Ukrainians to realize their personal responsibility for their own and public health. We are also trying to be close to the people who are most at risk in this pandemic, and we are preaching new forms of Christian solidarity.

What new forms of solidarity do you have in mind?

- We have announced the opportunity to participate in worship through social media, to pray continuously for those who have suffered and are in danger, as well as for those who are helping the sick.

What do you recommend to priests? The Pope prayed that they would stand beside the suffering people ...

- We advise the clergy to be close to those who suffer, to visit the people who remain at home, carrying Christ to them in the Holy Mysteries of Repentance and the Eucharist. In addition, we have issued instructions for the health protection of the priests themselves and the cleaning of churches and pastoral centers to prevent the spread of the infection.

These days, Pope Francis prayed for the sick, for those who help them, for families, and for the elderly, who, he said, deeply suffer from great inner loneliness. He reminded that grandparents give us wisdom, life, history. What should we keep in mind?

- Older people are the focus of our prayerful attention and social service to the Church. We encourage our faithful to care for lonely, elderly people: we ask them when they go to the shops, knock on a neighbor's door and ask them about their  condition, and, maybe, if they need to buy something. In other words, Christian solidarity during the coronavirus pandemic changes shape but does not fade!

What is a coronavirus for those eastern regions of Ukraine where war is still going on?

- We may not yet understand that people affected by the war need the most care in terms of health protection. In the war zones there are mostly elderly people who could not leave their native land. They are most vulnerable in this emergency. Therefore, we will try to use all possible means that the state can offer to help these people. We will also develop a network of social assistance through the various institutions of our Church, especially through Caritas, to support those who suffer.

You have expressed your solidarity with Italy, where at least 220,000, maybe half a million, Ukrainians,  live ...

- For Ukraine, Italy is a very close country. On behalf of our Church, I have expressed solidarity and prayerful unity with the Italian people. In Italy, many of our priests, monks, nuns and laymen serve. Now our faithful are a real risk group, especially those who care for the elderly: we recently heard about the death of the Ukrainian woman who cared for two elderly people and could not leave them unattended. We pray that the Lord will turn this anxiety into joy - the fruit of solidarity.

During his visit to the Procathedral of St. Sophia in Rome in 2018, Pope Francis said that Ukrainian women are doing great things in Italy, taking care of children or the elderly and sick. He emphasized that "they often bring faith into the family." What do these words mean to you now?

- Our Ukrainian women bring the light of God's Word in those Italian families in which they work. We ask them not to be discouraged: even in the most difficult moments, the Lord does not abandon us. The coronavirus cannot break our unity, which binds us as Christians and is manifested in prayer.

What is your appeal to the whole of Ukraine?

- Pope Francis has entrusted to the Blessed Virgin Mary all of the people suffering at this time from the coronavirus pandemic. We also entrust our people, Ukraine, and Italy to the maternal protection of Our Lady.

 

By Jada Aquilino, correspondent of www.vaticannews.va/


PUBLICATIONS

The decree of His Beatitude Sviatoslav, Father and Head of the UGCC25 March

TO OUR BELOVED BROTHER IN CHRIST Most Reverend Bishop Kenneth Anthony Adam Nowakowski