Pope tells people of Ukraine: ‘your pain is my pain’

Nine months from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Ukranian people praying for peace and saying he shares in their suffering, especially that of the children, the elderly and women who have endured violence.

Pope tells people of Ukraine: ‘your pain is my pain’ Archdiocese of Wellington
‘Your pain is my pain. On the cross of Jesus today I see you, you who suffer the terror unleashed by this aggression,’ writes the Pontiff in his letter to the people of Ukraine on 24 November, nine months after the eruption of war in Ukraine. Photo: Vatican News

WelCom December 2022

‘The absurd madness of war has been unleashed on your land for nine months. In your sky the sinister roar of explosions and the disturbing sound of sirens resound without stopping – your cities are hammered by bombs while showers of missiles cause death, destruction and pain, hunger, thirst and cold.

On your streets, many have had to flee, leaving their homes and loved ones. Alongside your great rivers flow rivers of blood and tears every day. I would like to unite my tears with yours and tell you that there is not a day in which I am not close to you and I do not carry you in my heart and in my prayers. Your pain is my pain.

‘In the cross of Jesus today I see you. You who suffer the terror unleashed by this aggression. Yes, the cross that tortured the Lord lives again in the tortures found on the corpses, in the mass graves discovered in various cities, in those and in many other bloody images that have entered our souls, which raise a cry: why? How can men treat other men like this? Many tragic stories come back to my mind that I come to know about. Above all those of the little ones: how many children killed, injured or orphaned, torn from their mothers!

‘I cry with you for every little one who, because of this war, has lost his life, like Kira in Odessa, like Lisa in Vinnytsia, and like hundreds of other children: in each of them the whole of humanity is defeated.

‘Now they are in the womb of God, they see your troubles and they pray that they will end. But how can we not feel anguish for them and for all those, young and old, who have been deported? The pain of Ukrainian mothers is incalculable.’

Pope Francis then underlined the courage of the young people who are fighting for Ukraine: ‘I think then of you, young people, who in order to courageously defend your homeland you had to take up arms rather than the dreams you had nurtured for the future; I think of you, wives, who have lost your husbands and biting your lips continue in silence, with dignity and determination, to make every sacrifice for your children; to you, adults, who try in every way to protect your loved ones; to you, elders, who instead of having a peaceful sunset were thrown into the dark night of war; to you, women who have suffered violence and who carry heavy weights in their hearts; to all of you, wounded in body and soul. 

‘I think of you and I am close to you with affection and admiration for how you face such hard trials – and I think of you, volunteers, who spend your every day for the people; to you, Shepherds of God’s holy people, who – often at great risk to your safety – have stayed close to the people, bringing God’s consolation and the solidarity of brothers, creatively transforming community places and convents into lodgings where you can offer hospitality , relief and food to those in difficult conditions.

‘I am thinking of refugees and internally displaced persons, who are far from their homes, many of which have been destroyed.’ The pontiff continues the letter with a thought ‘to the Authorities, for whom I pray: they have the duty to govern the country in tragic times and to make far-sighted decisions for peace and to develop the economy during the destruction of so many infrastructures vital, in the city as in the countryside. Dear brothers and sisters, in all this sea of evil and pain –ninety years after the terrible genocide of the Holodomor – I am in awe of your good ardour.

‘Despite the immense tragedy it is undergoing, the Ukrainian people have never been discouraged or abandoned to pity. The world has recognised a bold and strong people, a people that suffers and prays, weeps and fights, resists and hopes: a noble and martyred people. I continue to be close to you, with my heart and with prayers, with humanitarian concern, so that you feel accompanied, so that you do not get used to war, so that you are not left alone today and above all tomorrow, when perhaps the temptation will arise to forget your sufferings.’

Source: Crux; Vatican News; Nova News

Although exact numbers are impossible to obtain, it is estimated roughly 100,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded since the war began, and Ukrainian military have suffered similar casualties, with the number continuing to grow daily.

According to United Nations estimates, around 6,500 civilians have so far been killed, however, this toll only counts deaths once a name and other identifying details have been confirmed. Ukrainian officials estimate the real number of civilians killed is closer to 40,000.

Meanwhile, some 7.8 million people have fled Ukraine since February and are living abroad as refugees, according to the UN Refugee Agency. Millions of others are internally displaced within Ukraine, marking the largest displacement of people in Europe since World War II.