Two days of meetings were held to define the pastoral and social challenges created by the war in Ukraine. The Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences brought together those responsible for the pastoral care of Ukrainians throughout Europe for the Catholic Response for Ukraine, known as CR4U, at its headquarters in St. Gallen on 23 and 24 February.
CR4U brings together all the Catholic associations that have worked to alleviate the crisis in Ukraine and is coordinated by the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) – the commission that brings together the migration offices of the world’s Bishops’ Conferences.
As of November 2022, there were just over 7.7 million registered Ukrainian refugees throughout Europe, of whom 4.4 million had received temporary protection – or another similar status – in Europe.
Outlining the work of CR4U, Monsignor Robert Vitillo, General Secretary of the ICMC, emphasised that the group does not do fundraising, but rather identifies the needs on the ground and tries to discern what is required to help.
The network includes the ICMC, Caritas Internationalis, Caritas Europa and the two Caritas bodies in Ukraine (the Spes, of the Latin Rite Church, and Caritas Ukraine, run by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church). However, it also the activities of the Order of Malta, the Jesuit Refugee Service and Stella Maris, the section for the pastoral care of the sea included in the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Service of Integral Human Development, as well as the Catholic Health Association of the United States. The first objective is to respond to the challenges of “limited humanitarian capacity”, explained Monsignor Vitillo.
In his report, Father Fabio Baggio, undersecretary of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, reviewed the various interventions by Pope Francis for peace in Ukraine. “I was shocked to have to keep postponing a scenario that is not yet visible, which is the end of the war,” stressed Father Baggio.
Bishop Stepan Sus, who began his service as the bishop in charge of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s Migration Pastoral Office in February 2020, highlighted, among other things, the plight of children who were forcibly taken to Russia, for whom attempts are being made for them to be brought back to Ukraine with their families.
For his part, the Exarch for the Ukrainian faithful of the Byzantine Rite in Germany and Scandinavia, Bohdan Dzyurakh, president of the CCEE Commission for Social Pastoral Care, called for “making sure that this war is not forgotten”.
After an extensive review of the situation of Ukrainian refugees in the European countries of reference, the meeting concluded with a Mass for Peace in Ukraine celebrated in St. Gallen Cathedral by Bishop Markus Büchel.
Photo by Sabine Rüthemann