VATICAN CITY, July 6 - One day after his private audience with Vladimir Putin, Pope Francis met Friday with leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, encouraging them to persevere in hope and prayer amid the conflict in Donbas.
“Ukraine has been living for a long time a difficult and delicate situation, for over five years wounded by a conflict that many call ‘hybrid’, composed as it is by war actions where those responsible are camouflaged,” Pope Francis said July 5 in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, Catholic News Agency reported.
The pope said that “the weakest and the smallest pay the highest price” in the conflict, which he said is “aggravated by propaganda falsifications and various types of manipulation, including the attempt to involve the religious aspect.”
Pope Francis told Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, the members of the Permanent Synod, and the Metropolitans in the meeting to have prayer and the spiritual life as their first priority, not worldly concerns.
“You are a Church that knows how to speak in spiritual and not worldly terms … On the night of the conflict that you are going through, as in Gethsemane, the Lord asks his people to ‘watch and pray,’ not to defend oneself, let alone to attack,” Pope Francis said.
More than 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region since 2014, and nearly two million people were internally displaced by the conflict.
The conflict in Eastern Ukraine began in 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the Maidan Revolution in which Europe and NATO leaning faction gained power in Kyiv.
Pope Francis did not mention Russia or his meeting the previous day with Russian President Vladimir Putin in his published remarks to the Ukrainian Catholic leaders.
A statement from the Holy See Press Office July 4 said that Pope Francis discussed Ukraine with Putin during their 55-minute meeting, but did not give any further details. (cna/ez)