Russian President Vladimir Putin did not invade Ukraine out of concern that NATO would encroach on his borders, but concern about “the disease of democracy that could spread like a virus, and that’s deadly for oligarchies and authoritarian rulers,” said the archbishop who serves as a “foreign minister” for the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Russia needs “Ukraine’s territory, its population, its market, its technological capacity …. This country, with its seaports, helps Russia return to its nostalgic colonizing and imperial building,” said Archbishop Borys Gudziak, the Ukrainian Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia and the head of external relations for the worldwide Ukrainian Catholic Church.
He said people must understand the invasion was “not a response to a military threat, but it’s a response to moral danger. Democracy could spread.” In a wide-ranging interview on 14th March, Archbishop Gudziak spoke of Putin’s ruthlessness, the faith of Ukrainians, and Western leaders’ “naivete, blindness, lack of courage and capacity to act (during) 22 years of Putin’s rule.”
He sprinkled the interview with Biblical references such as David (Ukraine) and Goliath (Russia), the sin of Adam, and Herod’s massacre of the Holy Innocents. Archbishop Gudziak spoke of Russia’s “devastating air assault” targeting civilians: “a maternity hospital, schools — some 200 schools have been damaged or destroyed; it’s hitting churches; tanks are firing at apartment buildings. All of this is documented. The whole world is seeing it. What more is needed? What conscience cannot be moved to defend these innocent civilians?”
The result is a division of families, 3 million refugees, 2 million additional people displaced within Ukraine and billions of dollars of damage to infrastructure, he told Catholic News Service.
Archbishop Gudziak said that Ukrainians were very grateful to the Holy See, and he wished Pope Francis would “go to Ukraine right now. I think that would save many lives. His unique moral authority could play a role.” He noted that Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, head of the Eastern-rite Ukrainian Catholic Church, also has spoken publicly of his wish for a papal visit.
Throughout it all, Ukrainians have tried to maintain their faith, with priests celebrating services in private homes or in bomb shelters — he said Ukrainians were getting 5-10 bomb alerts every day.
“The rockets’ red glare helps people to pray,” he said. In those moments, people realise “our sense of great human autonomy is largely an illusion.”
“We’re actually seeing great faith, especially in those who are defending the innocent, protecting the hospitals, the refugees. There’s no greater love than that when one gives their life for one’s friend.”
Picture: Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia gestures during an interview with Catholic News Service at the headquarters of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington on 14th March 2022. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)