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His Beatitude Shevchuk: "We must not resign ourselves to war, it is always a tragedy".

Omnes was able to speak with Monsignor Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kiev, after his trip to Brussels where he met with various representatives of the European Union.

Antonino Piccione-November 11, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

Photo: Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kiev

His Beatitude Sviatoslav ShevchukThe major archbishop of Kiev has been in Brussels, where he arrived to attend the plenary assembly of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (Comece).

There he also met with the leadership of the European Commission on the day Ursula Von der Leyen announced the first green light for negotiations on the entry of some countries, including Ukraine, into the European Union.

He also met with European Commission representatives Olivér Várhelyi, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy of the EU Commission, and Michael Siebert, Executive Director for EU Affairs.

Beatitude, how was the news of the first step towards Ukraine's entry into the European Union received?

Perhaps it is a coincidence, but exactly 10 years ago I came here to Brussels with the heads of Churches and religious organizations gathered in the All-Ukrainian Council. We had come here to declare the will of the Ukrainian people to return to the family of European nations. We brought to the European Summit a document bearing the signatures of the leaders of the Christian Churches and of the Jewish and Muslim communities. Today this text is signed with the blood of the sons and daughters of the Ukrainian people. To defend this European project, the Revolution of Dignity broke out in Ukraine and the Russian invasion of Crimea and Donbass began in 2014.

The root of the military confrontation we are experiencing today stems precisely from the political denial of the identity of a people.

Today I feel that the European Union has finally opened its doors. If this step had been taken 10 years earlier, perhaps so many victims would have been avoided.

Why do you say this?

-Europe is a family of nations. A civilization, not just an economic union. If we had not abandoned ourselves to our own desires, if we had not privileged the economy over the dignity of the human person, if we had let the peoples choose, recognizing them not as the object of negotiation between Europe and Russia, but as the subject of their own future, then, 10 years ago, many lives could have been saved.

So what value do Von der Leyen's words have today?

They are an encouragement, even moral, even psychological.they tell us that all those victims who defended the European identity of our people were not in vain.

Finally someone recognizes who Ukrainians are, why they live and why they die.

Pope Francis greets Ukrainian Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk during a private meeting at the Vatican ©CNS photo/Vatican Media

What does the European Union mean to you?

-The values of the dignity of the person, of human life. It is very clear that the war in Ukraine is not a confrontation between two nations, but between two projects.
On the one hand, there is Russia, which is pursuing a return to a glorious past.

The past of an empire that wants to reconquer Ukraine, its former colony, and bring it back under a dictatorial system. On the other side is the Ukraine that wants to move forward, that looks to the future and does not want to go back.

There is a lot of talk, and rightly so, about the situation in the Middle East and very little about the war in Ukraine. What news is there? We live the tragedy of the Holy Land as our tragedy.

-We are very close to the Israeli people because, like them, the Ukrainian people are denied the very right to exist, and we are very close to the Christians of Palestine and the State of Israel.

It is interesting to note that the conflict in the Holy Land began on October 7 as a result of Hamas terrorist action.

In Ukraine, October was the bloodiest month in the last year.

The Russians slaughtered 1,000 of their own soldiers every day and our Ukrainian prisoners of war were shot en masse. A butchery. The war in Ukraine continues, the risk is that it will become a silenced war, a forgotten war. Just as it happened 10 years ago in the Donbass and Crimea. All this makes it urgent to plan for the future with a diplomatic plan.

There is little peace diplomacy, even here in the European Union. By the way, what is Cardinal Zuppi's mission like? 

-While in Italy to attend the Synod, I was able to visit Bologna and visit the Cardinal. We agreed on one fact: we cannot get used to war, because war is always a tragedy.

However, it is also true that every war ends with a peace agreement. And this peace agreement can already be woven by us today. We have talked a lot about the Ukrainian children kidnapped by the Russians, an issue on which, unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve any results so far.

We must insist, we must continue to seek all possible ways to free these children. Building peace requires the virtue of perseverance in doing good. We must not resign ourselves. War has a vicious and evil logic.

The men who initiate it, then become its slaves. War takes hold of everything and the man who falls victim to it is no longer able to get out of this cage. From a human point of view, the situation may indeed be a cause for despair. But if we look at the Founding Fathers of the European project, Schuman and Adenauer, were not overcome by despair but built Europe out of the rubble of World War II as a European peace project involving all nations. We must follow their example.

The authorAntonino Piccione

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