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Unimaginable suffering and clergy under pressure after two years of war in Ukraine

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Two years after Russia invaded Ukraine, families in the country are desperate and looking to the Church for support, putting clergy under huge pressure. 

Kenneth Nowakowski, a bishop of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC), told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that support is needed for clergy working round the clock to provide material and spiritual support to families affected by the war. 

Clergy have reported “unimaginable suffering” in the country over the last two years. 

The UGCC is developing a programme called ‘Healing the Wounds of War’ to provide training for Ukrainian clergy “who, day in and day out have to be dealing with funerals” and counsel victims of war.

The training aims to plug the gap in seminary education that does not teach clergy how to give highly demanding trauma counselling to people caught up in war.

It will also train clergy in how they can effectively support families affected by separation.

“We cannot make priests psychiatrists or psychologists in six easy lessons. But we can at least prepare them to be able to direct people to the right places to receive help and [assist them to cope with] the effects of hearing these stories and having to deal with so many deaths – not just ordinary, normal deaths but people dying in war,” he said. 

The UGCC is working further afield, too, to support refugees who have re-settled in the UK. A Sunday programme offered by the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London is attended by about 250 children, while around 2,000 children are involved in the St Mary’s Ukrainian School’s Saturday programme, which offers creative activities, interfaith services, mental health support, and safeguarding initiatives.

Priests are on hand at the cathedral’s Welcome Centre for Ukrainians in London who need a listening ear or prayer. The bishop said that priests listen “without either telling them to stay or encouraging them to leave”.

He concluded: “Our responsibility is to find out what help people need and do our best to help them.”





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