Vatican

Pope to Ukrainians: "I remain close to you".

9 months after the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Pope has addressed a letter to the Ukrainian people in which he stresses that "there is not a day when I am not close to you and do not carry you in my heart and in my prayer".

Maria José Atienza-November 25, 2022-Reading time: 5 minutes
ukrainian war

Photo: A Ukrainian girl holds her cat in the village of Moshchun, near Kiev©CNS photo/Murad Sezer, Reuters

The Holy See has made public a letter of Pope Francis addressed to the Ukrainian people in a particularly affectionate way. Far from being a formal letter, the Pope's missive is expressed rather as a sign of paternal suffering in the face of the deaths and material and psychological destruction of this conflict that has been going on for almost a year.

The Pope affirms that "in the cross of Jesus today I see you, who suffer the terror unleashed by this aggression. Yes, the cross that tortured the Lord lives again in the tortures found in the corpses, in the mass graves discovered in various cities, in those and in so many other bloody images that have entered our souls, that make us cry out: why?"

A question that has been frequently repeated by the Holy Father, like a cry to heaven, since the beginning of the conflict. In this letter, the Pope recalls, with names and concrete stories, the young men on the front lines, the wives who have abandoned their husbands and the terrible reality of the hundreds of children killed in these months as a result of the war.

Moreover, the Pope continues, "I continue to be close to you, with my heart and my prayer, with humanitarian concern, so that you may feel accompanied, so that you may not become accustomed to war, so that you may not be left alone today and especially tomorrow, when the temptation may come to forget your suffering."

Before the arrival of winter and the Christmas holidays, the Pope also emphasizes that "I would like the affection of the Church, the strength of prayer, the love that so many brothers and sisters of all latitudes feel for you, to be caresses on your faces".

Full text of the letter (unofficial translation)

Dear Ukrainian brothers and sisters

In their land, for the past nine months, the absurd madness of war has been raging. In your skies, the sinister roar of explosions and the ominous sound of sirens echo incessantly. Its cities are hammered by bombs while the rains of missiles cause death, destruction and pain, hunger, thirst and cold. In your streets many have had to flee, leaving behind homes and loved ones. Beside your great rivers flow every day rivers of blood and tears.

I would like to join my tears to yours and tell you that there is no day that I am not close to you and I do not carry you in my heart and in my prayer. Your pain is my pain. In the cross of Jesus today I see you, who suffer the terror unleashed by this aggression. Yes, the cross that tortured the Lord lives again in the tortures found on the corpses, in the mass graves discovered in various cities, in those and in so many other bloody images that have entered our souls, that make us cry out: why, how can men treat other men like this?

Many tragic stories come to mind. First of all, those of the little ones: how many dead, wounded or orphaned children, torn away from their mothers! I weep with you for every little one who, because of this war, has lost his or her life, like Kira in Odessa, like Lisa in Vinnytsia, and like hundreds of other children: in each one of them the whole of humanity is defeated. Now they are in God's lap, they see your anguish and pray for it to end. But how can we not feel anguish for them and for those, small and large, who have been deported? The pain of Ukrainian mothers is incalculable.

Then I think of you, young men, who in order to bravely defend your homeland had to put your hands to arms instead of the dreams you had cultivated for the future; I think of you, wives, who lost your husbands and biting your lips continue silently, with dignity and determination, making all the sacrifices for your children; to you, adults, who try by all means to protect your loved ones; to you, elders, who instead of a serene sunset have been thrown into the dark night of war; to you, women, who have suffered violence and carry great burdens in your hearts; to all of you, wounded in soul and body. I think of you and support you with affection and admiration for the way you face such hard trials.

And I think of you, volunteers, who spend yourselves every day for the people; of you, pastors of God's holy people, who - often at great risk to your own safety - have remained close to the people, bringing the consolation of God and the solidarity of your brothers and sisters, creatively transforming community places and convents into shelters where you offer hospitality, relief and food to those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. I also think of the refugees and internally displaced persons, who are far from their homes, many of them destroyed; and of the Authorities, for whom I pray: upon them falls the duty to govern the country in tragic times and to make far-sighted decisions for peace and to develop the economy during the destruction of so many vital infrastructures, both in the city and in the countryside.

Dear brothers and sisters, in all this sea of evil and pain - ninety years after the terrible genocide of the Holodomor - I am amazed at your good ardor. Despite the immense tragedy they are suffering, the Ukrainian people have never been discouraged and have never given in to compassion. The world has recognized a bold and strong people, a people that suffers and prays, weeps and fights, resists and hopes: a noble and martyred people. I continue to be close to you, with my heart and my prayer, with humanitarian concern, so that you may feel accompanied, so that you may not become accustomed to war, so that you may not be left alone today and especially tomorrow, when the temptation may come to forget your suffering.

In these months, in which the rigidity of the climate makes what you are experiencing even more tragic, I would like the affection of the Church, the strength of prayer, the love that so many brothers and sisters of all latitudes feel for you, to be caresses on your faces. In a few weeks it will be Christmas and the sting of suffering will be felt even more. But I would like to return with you to Bethlehem, to the trial that the Holy Family had to face on that night, which only seemed cold and dark. Instead, light came: not from men, but from God; not from the earth, but from heaven.

May his Mother and ours, the Virgin Mary, watch over you. To her Immaculate Heart, in union with the Bishops of the world, I consecrate the Church and humanity, especially your country and Russia. To her Motherly Heart I present your sufferings and your tears. To her who, as a great son of your land wrote, "brought God into our world", let us never tire of asking her for the longed-for gift of peace, in the certainty that "nothing is impossible with God" (Lk 1:37). May he fulfill the just expectations of your hearts, heal your wounds and give you his consolation. I am with you, I pray for you and I ask you to pray for me.

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