The people of Ukraine and their young president, Volodymyr Zelensky, have shown the world what courage and heroism look like.
We’re marveling at their gutsy stance, standing up to Ukraine’s much larger and stronger neighbor, Russia, rather than rolling over in surrender when Vladimir Putin’s tanks rolled in.
No matter how this unprovoked and destructive invasion plays out, the Ukrainians have already won the moral war.
If Putin achieves his goal of installing a pro-Russia puppet government in Ukraine, he will have a country of 44 million people scheming and working to thwart him at every opportunity. It will not be a peaceful situation.
Putin has succeeded in unleashing a mounting humanitarian crisis, as some 2 million innocent Ukrainians, including infants and children, have fled their homeland to escape Russia’s onslaught. It’s nothing short of a miracle that the Russian military’s reckless attack on the huge Zaporizhzhia nuclear power facility, the largest in Europe, did not become this year’s Chernobyl.
No one has any reliable reports on how many Ukrainian civilians or military personnel on either side have died in these first weeks after the assault, but it’s undoubtedly a sizable number.
The United States and its NATO allies have rightly stayed out of direct engagement in the conflict. Still, they’re shipping military equipment and supplies to Ukraine, are promising to accept refugees, and are planning financial assistance to the besieged nation.
The allies and other nations around the world are also throttling Russia with severe economic sanctions, which will eventually take a heavy toll.
Indeed, if this invasion has even a glimmer of a silver lining it’s that it has revitalized and united the NATO countries, and other democracies around the world.
We’re proud, too, of the response of Catholic Church leaders in and near the battle zone.
At his Angelus this past Sunday, Pope Francis said the Vatican “is ready to do everything to put itself at the service of peace” in Ukraine.
The pontiff is sending two cardinals to Ukraine: Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who runs the office of papal charities, and Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, interim president of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of Ukraine’s Catholic Church, opened the basement of Kyiv’s Resurrection Cathedral as a bomb shelter. Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Vatican’s nuncio to Ukraine, has said he has no intention of leaving Kyiv, saying “My place is here.” On Saturday, the Catholic bishops of Belarus, a pro-Russia country where troops have amassed, announced their solidarity with Ukraine.
Closer to home, we stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian-American community in the archdiocese and around the New York metro region, said to be the largest Ukrainian community in the country. They’re an important part of the Church in New York, and a vibrant presence in their local neighborhoods.
What we’re praying for now is a safe-passage corridor for refugees and a cease-fire to allow peace talks to bear fruit.
Last weekend, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett of Israel, one of the few countries with good working relations with both sides, met with Putin for several hours in Moscow to discuss the crisis.
Others have offered to mediate peace talks, including the Vatican.
This invasion began just before the start of Lent. As Easter approaches, we’re hoping against hope that the peace of that holy day will find its way across the globe to Ukraine.