Interview with the auxiliary bishop of the Kamieniec-Podolia diocese in Ukraine.
Bishop Radosław Zmitrowicz OMI is an auxiliary bishop of Kamieniec-Podolski in Ukraine. In an interview with Fr. Marcin Wrzos, OMI (editor of the Polish Oblate magazine “misyjne drogi”) he comments on the situation in the country.
Marcin Wrzos OMI: What is the role of the Church in Ukraine in the current political and military situation?
Bishop Radosław Zmitrowicz, OMI: A large-scale war has just started. I think that, above all, the role of the Church is to be with people, pray and point to God. I will tell you about one example of this being with people. The day before yesterday, one Polish priest, a priest who was planning to leave for Poland, consulted whether or not to postpone the departure. We don’t know what will happen these days, he thought. And if it is not there, people may be concerned, they may feel less safe and abandoned. He would like to stay with people, and on the other hand, he had important matters in Poland. And he decided to stay. He stated: “I can’t leave them and look at it from Warsaw.” It turned out that he was right because this morning Russian troops began the invasion. John Paul II “called” him, because he was a student at the Polytechnic University in the delegation that met the Pope during his pilgrimage. And the Pope spoke to him about his vocation. This is how he began to think about the priesthood. Now he is serving in Ukraine.
Today, the address of the Ukrainian Bishops’ Conference to the faithful was published, which also calls for the recitation of the act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as requested by Mary at Fatima. There are also words about the consecration of beloved Russia to Mary. This is the role of the Church to lead the people of God to entrustment, to God, so that each of us would know how to behave in a human way, in a Christian way. The worst and noblest things come out of a man in war.
And material assistance? Eating, sleeping, because someone will run away from somewhere… The Church will not organize this?
We will do whatever we can. This morning the father of one family wrote to me asking if he could send his relatives to Kamieniec Podolski. And the Ursuline sisters agreed to take in his family. I know that others are already coming towards us because it seems to be a relatively safe place. We prayed this morning in the Kamieniec cathedral that we would know how to behave as we should. There was the Gospel about giving a cup of water because that someone belongs to Jesus. Certainly, the Lord Jesus identifies himself with those who are now seeking refuge. There were also words about cutting off an arm, a leg, an eye, if they were worse. We understood that it also meant cutting off what was selfish in us, which only wanted to think about ourselves and create our comfort zone and not see poverty and suffering. The Church’s financial resources are very limited, they cover only basic expenses, but the Church is the faithful, and certainly many of them will help their friends and relatives, and sometimes also strangers, and the needy. There are also retreat houses and, as it was in 2014 or 2015, they provided shelter as much as possible. Yesterday, when we had our conversation, I said there was no panic. Today, it probably does not exist either, although the goods are already being bought, long queues to ATMs and gas stations.
I would like to refer to the Sunday Gospel. It was about the fact that a Christian is someone who has to love friends – although this is already very difficult – and enemies. How in such situations, not only the war that has come, to love your enemies?
Here we touch a broader context. Often times, war and violence are between people, not only at the interstate level, but at home, at work, and at university. Violence or extreme aggression is related to, for example, killing unborn children. Mother Teresa said that the cause of the Third World War was precisely this aggression, this rape. There is also violence in families. This aggressor or foe is not only far to the east and getting closer – but he can be very close. In the same apartment, office.
Now let’s go back to the gospel of love, what does it teach? We are all trying to go towards love. We suffer primarily because we have these bad feelings, sins – anger, hatred, aggression. Nobody wants it, but they appear because we experience injustice, someone is hurting us and we cannot answer otherwise than with anger, aggression, hatred. There is also an insatiability in a man who wants more and more power, success, material things, most often at the expense of others, achieving goals “over the dead”. I will belong to the empire – I already have a lot, but I want more and more. It is this void that forces a man to be selfish and to this cursed life. The only liberation is given to us by the Lord. I would love to love because that’s the only truth. I am trying to help others, open myself to this One Love that gives life.
We live in different worlds, bubbles, we are informed unilaterally, which makes it difficult for us to love.
We live in different worlds, or as sociologists now call it, in different bubbles. Russians think differently, we think differently. There is the Tower of Babel. The mission of the Church is to create unity. There is no Ukrainian, Russian or Pole, there is no Jew, there are Christians and Catholics in the Church community. In small Catholic communities where there is faith, this is what it is like. Christ pierces these bubbles, builds bridges of peace and unity. Of course, there are also difficulties, because emotions sometimes win. I have to see that I am really not better, I am a sinner, that “Putin is in me”, that he can reveal himself at any moment. Only by adhering to faith in the Lord can they overcome “Putin in himself”.
The war on a large scale has started, it has already been, and even more so, it will also be an information war. It is very important for us to look at what is happening with the eyes of faith. See also a specific person. My father, who survived Siberia as a child, and his father was in the Soviet camps, always said: the system is terrible, but the people are good. The most important story that unfolds is the story of salvation. Evil can win individual battles, but it has already lost. God entered everything we live through the Incarnation and is Present as the Risen Lord.
(extracts taken from the original interview published on misyjne.pl)