Call for Pope to take firmer stand on Ukraine conflict

The head of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church has called on Pope Francis to take a firmer stand on the conflict in the east of his country.

Criticising what he described the Vatican’s “ambivalence” on how Russian-backed rebels have been fighting government forces for more than a year, despite an official ceasefire, Kiev-Halych’s Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said “this war has already inflicted over 6,000 deaths and left 1.5 million people displaced, a quarter of them children”.

“In that part of the country in the hands of pro-Russian separatists, many are dying of hunger, while our priests risk their lives daily transporting supplies”, he added.

The archbishop said he appreciated that Rome was trying to safeguard its ties with the Russian Orthodox Church, but he stressed that “Christ has always been on the side of those who suffer” and said, “In this conflict, it is Ukraine which is suffering – and the Holy See, whose diplomacy is service of the Gospel, should be at our side.”