Ukrainian Catholic Leader Says Russian Invasion Turning into War against Civilians

Civilians are evacuated from Irpin, a city next to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. State Emergency Service.

A Catholic leader said on Friday that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “becoming a war primarily against the civilian, peaceful population.”

In a video message issued on March 11, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk highlighted the suffering of Ukrainian children on the 16th day of the war.

“It really seems that this war is becoming a war primarily against the civilian, peaceful population,” he said.

“Even according to official statistics, in these days there have been more deaths among civilians — women and children — than among the military. We mourn the children of Ukraine who have become innocent victims of this war.”

The U.N. human rights office reported on March 11 that it had recorded 1,546 civilian casualties in Ukraine since Feb. 24, with 564 people killed and 982 injured. It said that the actual figures were likely to be “considerably higher.”


The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church said that the “great majority” of Ukrainians believe that Ukraine will emerge victorious from the war with Russia, a nation with significantly larger military forces.

He said: “Speaking with our soldiers, for whom we worry particularly today, I constantly hear only one request: ‘Pray for us!’”

“I want to pass on this request of the Ukrainian army, in whose hands lies the fate of Ukraine, to all of you who hear me. Pray! Pray for our Ukrainian army, which today is defending peace in Ukraine, Europe, and the world.”

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message on March 11, 2022.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk records a video message on March 11, 2022.

The 51-year-old leader of the world’s largest Eastern Catholic Church in communion with Rome expressed concern about the situation in Slavutych, a city in northern Ukraine built for evacuated personnel from the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant.

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“This area has no electricity. There is a great danger of the spread of new radioactive waves from the Chernobyl reactor,” he said. “But our priest with his wife, fully besieged, have remained there with their people.”

Ukrainian Greek Catholic men are permitted to marry before being ordained to the priesthood.

Shevchuk thanked Orthodox Christians in Western Europe for helping Ukrainian refugees and urging Russian Orthodox leaders to help end the war.

“I thank the World Council of Churches, which is doing everything to stop this war,” he added, referring to the ecumenical body founded in 1948.

“I thank the Catholics and Protestants of France who, with a particular appeal, are trying to do everything to stop the bloodshed in our land.”


Archbishop Éric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference, and Pastor François Clavairoly, president of the Protestant Federation of France, met with a Russian Orthodox leader in Paris on March 10 to hand over letters to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

Concluding his message, Shevchuk said: “Let us pray for Ukraine! Let us be her voice in the world! May the merciful Lord help end this madness!”

“O God, Great and Almighty, protect our Ukraine!”