He said, â€œWe belong to one Church â€“ a family that spans continents and centuries, bound together by a common faith in Jesus Christ. In that spirit, today I ask all Catholics in the Greater Philadelphia region to pray urgently for the Church in Ukraine.
â€œWestern Catholics remember the suffering of the Polish Church under Communism because of Pope John Paul IIâ€™s witness of resistance. Less well known, but even more brutal, was the half-century of Soviet persecution experienced by Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who make up the largest Eastern Catholic Church in the world.
â€œAfter Communismâ€™s collapse, life for the Church in Ukraine improved. But late last year Ukraineâ€™s leaders shifted back toward the Russian orbit. They cracked down heavily on demonstrations and dissent, killing some protesters and arresting hundreds of others.
â€œChristians in Ukraine â€“ Catholics, Orthodox and others â€“ have not been silent. The Churchâ€™s people and leaders have played a major role in denouncing government violence, political repression and corruption. Ukrainian Catholic clergy have given vital pastoral care to those demonstrating for human rights and democratic principles. And theyâ€™ve been targeted by the government for doing so.
â€œThe Wall Street Journal voiced its frustration with Washingtonâ€™s inaction â€“ and seeming disinterest â€“ in the face of the worsening Ukraine crisis. The Journalâ€™s editors noted the best way of curbing repression by corrupt Ukraine officials and â€˜business oligarchsâ€™ is a visa ban and freeze on their American-based assets. But so far, it hasnâ€™t happened.
â€œPhiladelphiaâ€™s Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Stefan Soroka has called on all of us as fellow Catholics, and other Americans of good will, to support the struggle for religious and civil liberties in Ukraine. We can do that first and most importantly by prayer â€“ and then by contacting our elected representatives.
â€œSilence from the United States encourages oppression in Ukraine. We canâ€™t let that happen, again, to fellow believers who bore so much suffering for so many decades.â€