Ukraine expressed concern on Wednesday over the Vatican’s intention to have Russian and Ukrainian women carry the cross together during a traditional ceremony, which will take place at the Colosseum on Good Friday.
According to the Ukrainian ambassador to Vatican City Andrey Yurash, the diplomatic mission “understands and shares general the concern in Ukraine and many other communities” about the idea.
“Now we are working on the issue [of] trying to explain the difficulties of its realization and the possible consequences,” the ambassador wrote.
- He also posted a comment by the Kiev-based head of the Greek-Catholic church in Ukraine, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who on Tuesday called the idea of bringing together Russian and Ukrainian women for the Stations of the Cross ceremony an “untimely, ambiguous” thought which “does not take into account the context of Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine.”
Shevchuk added that he had already reported to the Vatican “multiple negative reactions” of the Greek-Catholic clergy members who are apparently convinced that any “gestures of reconciliation” between Ukraine and Russia would be possible “only when the war is over and those responsible for crimes against humanity are justly convicted.”
The head of the church has also expressed hope that, following the requests from Ukraine, the Vatican would agree to change its plan.
- Responding to the criticism, the Rev. Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest in Rome who is reportedly close to Pope Francis, told Italian state radio network RAI on Wednesday that the Pontiff “is a pastor, not a politician.”
The Vatican on Monday published the meditations and prayers for the Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, which is presided-over by the Pope.
For the 13th station, “Jesus dies on the cross,” Ukrainian and Russian nurses who work together at a Rome hospital and are friends, will read their reflections on the conflict.
“Lord where are you? Speak to us amid the silence of death and division, and teach us to be peacemakers, brothers and sisters, and to rebuild what bombs tried to destroy,” reads the text of the reflection which the two women wrote together.
The nurses with their families will pass the cross to a family of migrants which will carry it for the final, 14th station.
Pope Francis has many times urged Russia to stop its offensive, stressing that what is happening in Ukraine is a “war” and not just a “military operation.”
During his Palm Sunday Mass in the Vatican on April 10 he called on the sides to declare an “Easter truce.” The main holiday of the Catholic church calendar will be celebrated on April 17.
Moscow attacked its neighbor in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc.
Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.