Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy delivers remarks at the National Press Club in Washington on March 15, 2022, regarding the war in Ukraine. (SNC Photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the United States said March 15 that he hopes the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church will “open up and hear the gospel,” which says “Don’t don’t kill,” and would tell Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop killing innocent Ukrainians.

Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, speaking at a media event with Ukrainian Ambassador Oksana Markarova at the National Press Club in Washington, said the world was captivated by the plight of Ukraine, the one where the Gospel plays out in 2022.

“It’s David and Goliath, it’s a biblical message,” Bishop Gudziak said.

By standing up to a mighty Russian army, carrying the bodies of their fellow Ukrainians to safety, and burying the dead as chaos unfolds around them, Ukrainians practice before the world what Christians find in the Gospel of John 15:13, he said.

“No one has a greater love than this, to lay down your life for your friends,” Bishop Gudziak told members of the press.

But he also targeted the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church. Archbishop Gudziak explained how the “Patriarchate” presented the head of the Russian National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, as “a giant icon of the Mother of God”.

Reuters news agency said Zolotov spoke about the slower-than-expected progress on Ukraine during a March 13 church service led by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow. The head of the national guard is said to have commented on the reception of the icon of Mary: “Victory will be for us, and this icon will protect the Russian army and will hasten our victory”.

“This is happening…in the largest church in the capital of Russia, the Patriarch is giving the Mother of God to these war criminals,” Bishop Gudziak said, adding that “it is very sad that today Today the Russian Orthodox Church and its leaders stand with President Putin and he represents this war.

Markarova, who the United States knew during President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address on March 1 as a guest of first lady Jill Biden, said what Russia is doing to Russia. Ukraine, leaving a civilian population without food, water and medicine, terrorizing them. before killing them, is “barbaric”.

But Russia is also destroying Ukraine’s cultural symbols and places, she said, including places of worship.

Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova deliver remarks at the National Press Club in Washington on March 15, 2022 regarding the war in Ukraine. (SNC Photo/Tyler Orsburn)

“The Greek Orthodox Church, Greek Catholic churches, Orthodox churches, synagogues, mosques, nothing is forbidden,” she said.

Ukrainians need weapons to defend themselves, she said, as well as humanitarian aid, diplomatic efforts to secure safe corridors and the toughest sanctions the West can impose.

“Is it acceptable for an aggressive, autocratic nuclear power to attack a neighboring state and get away with it?” she asked. “I am certain that all of us together, all in the civilized world, must answer resolutely ‘no’.”

The world came to regret failing to act during the Nazi annexations of Eastern Europe in the 1930s that gave way to a larger global conflict, she said.

“We are now living in the moment of 1939,” she said. “It’s not enough to help Ukraine… all we hear from Russia is that they won’t stop in Ukraine.”

Bishop Gudziak appealed for help in the form of armored ambulances, medicine, medical equipment, “all sorts of things that need to be replaced” when treating seriously injured patients, he said.

As he has done in previous interviews, he blamed Western leaders, including US Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump, for failing to do anything about the threat Putin posed.

“He is not being sanctioned for something he did yesterday or the day before. He has been doing this for 20 years, 30 years,” the archbishop said, adding that it was convenient for those who took advantage of it to look away.

For his part, members of the Catholic Church, “bishops, priests are there on the front line with the laity,” he said, offering much-needed food, transport and prayers even then. that they too face terror.

He said he last spoke with Pope Francis before the attacks on Ukraine began and told the pontiff to speak with Putin and with Patriarch Cyril.

“He did everything he could behind the scenes. … I’m sure he did everything he could,” but it doesn’t seem like he got much response from them, he said. declared.

As a religious leader, he said, it is important “to see the positive things in this tragedy. The world has united,” said Bishop Gudziak, head of external relations of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the world.

One of the most impressive testimonies of faith of Ukrainians is that they show something that the West and secularized societies live in fear of: death, he said, and which helps them to serve their brothers and sisters with peace in their hearts.

“We no longer know how to deal with death in many Western societies in the 21st century. We think it’s the abyss, the end. But most of civilization is built on the belief in eternal life, that we are called to live with God,” he said.

“And those who are fearless in the face of death testify to a faith in eternal life,” the Archbishop added. “I think it’s a testimony that deeply touches the world today and deeply touches my heart.”