Pope Francis looking at images from Ukraine at the general audience, Dec. 21, 2022 / Vatican Media
ACI Prensa Staff, Feb 24, 2023 / 15:25 pm (CNA).
On the first anniversary of the war in his homeland, Ukrainian priest Father Jurij Blazejewski highlighted the faith of the Ukrainian people and assured that “it is Christ who is winning there” in a conflict where “saints and heroes are born.”
Feb. 24 marks one year since the Russian army invaded Ukrainian territory. It was the beginning of a cruel and bloody war in which, despite the numerous victims and the pain, what remains — according to Blazejewski — is “a faith that moves mountains.”
A priest of the Don Orione Congregation, Blazejewski was born in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and is currently studying communications at Holy Cross University in Rome.
Speaking with ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, the Ukrainian priest said that “the pope, the Vatican and the Church are doing a lot” to put an end to this war.
For Blazejewski, the voice of Pope Francis calling for peace and justice “are not just words; they have their power and stimulate processes to end the madness of the invasion, find justice and rebuild the future. Who knows how many stories of his intervention not revealed to the public will be discovered only years after the war,” he stressed.
The Don Orione priest, who also directs the Catholic magazine “Skynia,” said that “the pope is really doing a lot, but we see little. I thank him for his effort and humility because he is aware that he will be criticized, he does more than he speaks about his help.”
“It’s the opposite logic of the world of politics, where there’s often a lot of talk but little done,” he added.
Blazejewski said that Pope Francis’ line is clear: “He wants the Vatican to be an effective platform for negotiations when the time comes.”
“Of course,” he clarified, “it’s still too early to talk about this.”
“I think that when Russia is close to defeat, a consensus can be reached to negotiate and withdraw. And it’s then that the role of the Holy See will be truly crucial and historic, it will be able to become an effective moderator, saving the death and destruction to come,” he said.
‘Christ was buried there’
Speaking from Rome, Blazejewski said that “Christ not only walked the streets of Ukrainian cities carrying the cross, he was also buried there, in Bucha, Mariupol, and Izium, along with old women, children, and soldiers.”
He also noted that in Ukraine “there is hardly a person who doubts victory” and that he is convinced that “an even more splendid victory is taking place in the hearts of so many people: Christ is winning there.”
Regarding the consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary that Pope Francis carried out on March 25 last year, the Ukrainian priest said that this event “was not by chance.”
“It’s in these times when heroes and saints are born,” he said.
A faith that moves mountains
Asked how Christians are living out their faith under the continuous bombardments, he said that, for example, the parochial vicar in Kharkiv has housed more than a dozen people who lost their homes.
“They live together, as in the early days of the Church. They eat together, they pray together, during bombardments they attend Mass together in the basement of the church.”
On one occasion, the faithful and the parochial vicar went down to the basement of the church to say the rosary in the middle of the bombardments. “At the fourth mystery came the great silence: the Russian artillery stopped firing,” Blazejewski told ACI Prensa.
“It seems to me that this faith is truly capable of moving mountains.”
The value of freedom
The priest also stressed the importance of freedom, noting that despite the number of deaths, injuries, emigrants, destroyed elements of infrastructure and culture, Ukrainians have not lost their values. “And that heritage is wonderful, it’s a victory made in people’s minds and hearts,” he said.
“Today we talk about freedom. Not only as a concept but also as one of the pillars of the dignity of every human person.”
He also pointed to solidarity and compassion “which are revealed in each Ukrainian towards his neighbor, as well as those that have been received by so many people of goodwill from all continents.”
“It seems that under fire no one is really an atheist anymore,” he added.
Blazejewski also noted that “experts in the field of communications at scenes of violence say that 50 years is the time necessary for forgiveness and reconciliation to mature after a conflict on such a large scale as this one.”
Along these lines, he hoped that “at least those who are today’s children can one day think seriously about forgiveness.”
The role of the media
For Blazejewski, “the first task of the communications media is to seek and spread the truth.”
“Therefore,” he continued, “I consider it very positive that the number of materials aimed mainly at eliciting tears has decreased and the block of materials that provide information and make an analysis has remained more or less at the same level.”
“Justice does not come from weeping and an emotional display, but from the truth communicated. Yes, pain is part of the truth of war, but it’s not all of it: There is also endurance, mutual aid, love, even dreams for the future! I hope the European media will talk about this more.”
An invitation for Lent
The Ukrainian priest explained that “Lent is always a time to take care of the weak and vulnerable beside us.”
He therefore invited Christians “to choose an initiative or a parish, or a family from there that you can help this time. If someone has the opportunity and wants to, they can donate, there are many beautiful initiatives of the Church.”
“For example, there is the project of the Catholic Press Association in Ukraine that raises money to support Ukrainian Catholic journalists during the war and thus save the voice of the Church. But the aid does not necessarily have to be material.”
Blazejewki said that “all Ukrainians need your prayers and the spiritual fruits of your Lenten abstinence. It would be a nice gesture of brotherhood,” he concluded.
This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.