Australian Catholics urged to unite in prayer with their Eastern Rite brothers and sisters
Archbishop Prowse has called for prayers for peace given the serious political situation in Ukraine.
“It was a delight to welcome Bishop Bychok along with six other recently ordained bishops to the Archdiocese last week,” he said.
“During one of our Masses together in the Cathedral, Bishop Bychok chanted in the Ukrainian language the Magnificat. It was a very moving moment of prayer, given the threat to peace in his homeland. We join him and all Ukrainians in praying for peace in this troubled land.”
A ‘modern Herod’ is endangering Ukraine, recently ordained Eparch of Ukrainian Catholics in Australia Bishop Mykola Bychok says.
Although he is currently 17,000 km away, he is determined that Australian Catholics understand the imminent danger his fellow citizens face from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Quoting St Pope John Paul II’s reference to the Roman and Eastern Rites, “the Church must breathe with her two lungs”, Bishop Bychok urged Australian Catholics to unite with their Eastern Rite brothers and sisters.
“The Catholic faith means to be in unity,” he said. “So my hope is that Australian Catholics will pray for peace, be informed, and financially support the Ukrainian people.”
The Ukrainian Catholic Church is one of five Eastern Rite eparchies in Australia represented by a resident bishop. They are in full communion with the worldwide Catholic Church and are the second-largest in the Catholic Church.
In a letter issued on Australia Day, Bishop Bychok wrote that President Putin is a “modern Herod” whose “thirst for power and hegemony” threatens the Ukrainian state’s “freedom and dignity”.
Just three weeks later, the White House has issued a statement warning Russia might invade Ukraine within days. The United States, Britain and Australia have told their citizens to leave Ukraine as soon as possible.
Taking part in the inaugural seminar for recently ordained bishops in Canberra last week, the 41-year-old Bishop suggested that the constant geographical tension Ukraine experiences would be deeply unfamiliar to most Australians.
“It’s difficult for Australians to understand because Ukraine is not an island like Australia,” he said. “We have six neighbours including Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and our giant neighbour, the Russian Federation.
“Right now, especially on the eastern side of our border, we have a massive threat from the Russian Federation. One hundred thousand soldiers are ready, and they are waiting just for Putin’s next steps. We are fighting for our freedom.”
Although there is growing media coverage of a possible Russian invasion, Bishop Bychok says that Ukrainian society has “lived under a cloud of mourning and grief” since the 2014 Russian invasion and annexing of the Crimean Peninsula and the occupation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
“After eight years of war initiated by Russia, Ukraine has lost a substantial part of its territory. Fourteen thousand people, including children, have been killed, 1.5 million have been internally displaced, several hundred thousand agonise near the frontline, and millions suffer from post-traumatic stress. But we as a Church, we trust in God,” he said.
Established in Australia in the 1950s, many of the Ukrainian Catholics emigrated from the Displaced Person Camps after WW II, and from Yugoslavia during the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Despite living more than half a century under a Communist regime, Ukrainians practised their Catholic faith underground and in fear of persecution.
More than 70 years later and as countries emerge from the COVID lockdown, Bishop Bychok is looking forward to visiting his parishes and mission centres in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
He said the seminar for recently ordained bishops “was like breathing fresh air”. Face-to-face was essential “not just to meet each other and pray together, but to share our Catholic identity. It was really very helpful.”