In solidarity with the Pittsburgh-area Ukrainian community
March 6 at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland (Pittsburgh), Pa.
Good Afternoon! Glory to Jesus Christ! Slava Isusu Christu!
The people of Pittsburgh have gathered today at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Saint Paul. We pray for the people living in Ukraine who are being invaded by forces following the command of the Vladimir Putin. It has resulted in death, hunger, and an emigration of over one and half million people from Ukraine as of today.
I am Metropolitan Archbishop William Skurla of the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church of Pittsburgh. I was chosen to speak today because my father’s family and our Byzantine Catholic Church is from the western Transcarpathian area of the current nation of Ukraine. All my life, I heard of stories of Ukraine from my family and those displaced after the Second World War who resettled in Minnesota where I was born and baptized. I have listened to their stories, and I have visited Ukraine as a bishop or archbishop several times.
The Slavic peoples have been living in Eastern and Central Europe since prehistoric times. They have endured several invasions and occupations. The domination of Soviet Union lead by Joseph Stalin is merely the last of many which the Slavic peoples have endured. During the last Soviet occupation, millions died to persevere their faith and national freedom.
From 1991 to 2014, the people living in Ukraine enjoyed political and religious freedom. Unfortunately, the 2014 occupation of Crimea, parts of Lugansk, and Donetsk Provinces has cost 14,000 lives. Since the invasion, several thousands more have died and millions have fled in one week. With the threat of a second communist suppression of the entire nation, the darkness and gloom could returned for my Ruthenian Church, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and the other religious groups living in nation of Ukraine.
Today, we pray for the end of the violent invasion. We pray for consolation for those who have families living in Ukraine and those recently displaced. Especially, we pray for the families of our ten priests from Ukraine serving in the Byzanttine Catholic Pittsburgh Archeparchy who are praying with us today as well as are several other people, priests, and religious serving other churches in the United States.
For Christians, Lent is the season of prayer, fasting and alms giving. We certainly will remember Ukraine in our prayer and fasting during the Great Fast. The Churches of our Byzantine Catholic Archeparchy are collecting money for support of Ukraine. If your church, religious, or civil organizations are making collections to send aid to Ukraine, please give to help save lives.
We take for granted our religious and political freedom. Although our political system is far from perfect, we are allowed to worship without interference from the government. When we are persecuted for our faith, we can draw courage from the Books of the Old Testament which are filled with stories of the suffering of the people of Israel who are praying with us today. Even though the people of Israel suffered, they remained faithful to the Lord. Their enduring faith was eventually rewarded with restoration of their people.
We pray to the Lord that the invasion forces will withdraw. But, if they do not withdraw, we pray at the Lord will give our people the spiritual strength to endure yet another persecution. It will likely be a time of suffering. We hope and pray that this oppression with be mild and short. And we pray that the Lord with restore their nation and our Church.