In a press conference at the Vatican Radio headquarters, the web site La Nuova Busssola Quotidiana, reported, Most Rev. Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Greek Catholic Rite said he warned the Pope about statements by the Holy See which might be associated with Russian propaganda.
Archbishop Shevchuk was on his ad limina visit to Rome along with more than twenty Ukrainian Catholic bishops of the Latin and Byzantine rites. The bishops told Pope Francis about the dramatic situation their country is living.
“To describe what happens in Ukraine,” he said earlier in the interview, “you can only use one expression: foreign invasion, and not civil war.”
The term “fratricidal war” had been infelicitously employed by the Pope at the audience of February 4. The statement drew strong reactions from Ukrainian Catholic circles and real enthusiasm among the followers of Vladimir Putin, notably the schismatic Patriarchate of Moscow.
The expression “fratricidal war,” said the Archbishop of Kiev, hurt the feelings of the Ukrainian people because it echoes the view of the Ukrainian conflict spread by “Russian propaganda.”
“I personally explained to the Holy Father who the victims are and who the aggressors are,” the dignitary added.
During the ad limina visit, the Pope heard harrowing reports from the bishops, beginning with those from Crimea and the regions recently occupied by Moscow’s obedient agents and Russian soldiers.
The five Greek-Catholic parishes of Crimea were ordered to re-register with the government but had their registration denied the three times they tried.
“We fear this is a trick to deprive our Church of legal status as happened in 1946 under the Soviet regime,” the Archbishop said.
Centers manned by Caritas Ukraine received about 140,000 refugees daily. Archbishop Shevchuk explained: “I appealed to Francis to call for an international humanitarian initiative.” So far, there is no news about it.
Regarding the schismatic Patriarchate of Moscow, which has followers in Ukraine, the archbishop explained that “it is difficult to work with pastors unable to respect their faithful. An ecclesiastical hierarchy that aligns itself with the powers that be against its own people loses credibility.”
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Rite mentioned the anguish and confusion of Orthodox Ukrainians under their schismatic patriarchate. These believers do not understand how “their own patriarch could have become a spokesman for the aggressor.”
As far as Archbishop Schevchuk is concerned, the Russian Orthodox Church has become a powerful weapon of misinformation which is also hurting the very citizens of the Russian Federation.
“Many Russians in fact do not know their soldiers are being killed. Even for their own sake it is necessary to undo this chain of lies.”
Also part of this “chain of lies” is the deceptive image forged by Russian propaganda of a Putin who defends Christian rights.
“I am a son of the Church persecuted by the Soviet Union,” the Archbishop said, “and I know very well that the KGB [the Communist political police in which Putin was trained] never spread Christian values but used them for political ends.
“I do not believe that someone who sacrifices a million lives to achieve geopolitical objectives can be inspired by Christian values. Let us not be naive,” he concluded.