In helping people suffering in the conflict in east Ukraine, the Church should not waver in its commitment to nurture the faith of Christian communities – according to a leading Catholic bishop.
Latin-rite Catholic Bishop Stanislav Shyrokoradiuk of Kharkiv-Zaporyzhya highlighted the Church’s practical help for those in extreme hardship, but stressed the need to deepen the faithful’s spiritual lives.
the mission of the Church is to bring God to the people
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, he said: “More than anything, the mission of the Church is to bring God to the people and proclaim the truth to them.”
Bishop Shyrokoradiuk added: “We should not only give them bread and forget the soul. It is not enough to just do good deeds – we should not cheat the people of the grace necessary for their salvation.”
The bishop highlighted the need to train priests and build churches and outlined the need for chapels in children’s homes in his diocese.
He said: “The children go [to the chapels] to discuss their problems with God.”
Stressing the need for the Church to “maintain the balance” between spiritual and practical priorities, the bishop described Church-led initiatives in support of destitute people across Ukraine, including older people and families.
Bishop Shyrokoradiuk urged people to pray for those who are suffering “to keep them from losing their faith”.
As president for 20 years of Caritas Spes, one of the Church’s charities in Ukraine, Bishop Shyrokoradiuk is familiar with the work done by many Church organisations and initiatives and the limits on its ability to provide for material needs.
God is the one giving them bread – through their benefactors
The bishop said aid recipients should be treated with respect and be thankful to God for those who help them.
He said: “We approach the distribution of material aid not as a kind of grab-and-go service, but make sure it is done in a beautiful and dignified manner.
“We hold a reading from the Gospels and the recipients of the aid pray the Lord’s Prayer together for those who donated the gifts.
“We tell them that God is the one who is giving them the bread, but that he is doing so through their benefactors.”
Last year, ACN supported pastoral projects in Ukraine, where there are up to 1.5 million Internally Displaced Persons.
ACN has helped build and repair churches and monasteries as well as train priests, religious Sisters and monks.
The charity also supported religious Sisters and provided vehicles for the pastoral care of Ukraine’s faithful.