AHEAD of the first anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine, a charity has revealed the extent of its life-saving aid over the last 12 months, which has all been delivered via the country’s Churches.
Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) announced that it had supported 292 vital projects in Ukraine, at a cost of nearly £8.5 million, since the Russian invasion on 24th February 2022.
Troops attacked major cities, including the capital Kyiv, in an attempt to seize the country.
Dr Caroline Hull, national director of ACN (UK), said: “The response of the Churches during the fighting has been absolutely sacrificial, with priests, Sisters, Brothers and lay workers doing all they can to support those whose lives have been utterly devastated.
“How could ACN’s response not be similarly sacrificial? How could we not do all we can to support their heroic efforts during this time of war?”
ACN was one of the first international organisations to provide immediate assistance to Ukrainian civilians, and a substantial part of its aid has gone to supporting work with the most needy being carried out by both Eastern Catholic and Roman Catholic dioceses.
During the first few months of the war a large wave of IDPs (internally displaced persons) made their way to western Ukraine as fighting escalated in the oblasts (provinces) of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
ACN provided support for thousands of IDPs through Church-backed humanitarian aid programmes.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, told ACN: “At the beginning, people went to the west of the country, but the poorest of the poor are not able to do so. They look for the nearest safe city in which to stay.”
ACN also provided emergency subsistence aid for 7,447 priests, religious Sisters and Brothers, and key lay workers who remained in their dioceses, sometimes at personal risk, to provide spiritual and material help to those affected by the war.
Major Archbishop Shevchuk, added:
“From the Church people expected food, clothes, but also a word of hope. Pastoral care for the people is our number one mission”.
With IDPs being cared for in parishes, monasteries, seminaries and other Catholic institutions, ACN provided kitchen equipment at 231 locations to help provide food and minister to other essential needs.
With electricity often cut off due to the fighting, ACN supplied 205 generators to allow religious communities to remain in their residences, along with the displaced families they are looking after.
And to ferry aid to where it was needed most, ACN helped the local Church purchase 80 vehicles.
ACN also provided Mass stipends to provide a basic income for at least 6,549 priests, as well as providing 130 Mass kits, so that priests can celebrate the Liturgy with the people in bunkers, shelters and even in conflict zones.