ACN News: Thursday, 11th January 2017 – UKRAINE
Ukraine: “The most important mission of the church is to bring God to the people”
By Eva-Maria Kolman
Many people in the Ukraine are destitute, especially older people and families. The armed conflict taking place in the eastern part of the country also continues to claim victims. The Catholic church helps those in need by providing them with both pastoral and material aid.
The church should not get so wrapped up in its charitable commitments that it forgets that its primary focus needs to be on the salvation of the soul, the Roman Catholic bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporyzhya, Stanislav Shyrokoradiuk, emphasised during an interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Although many church organisations and initiatives have been set up in his diocese to help those in need through concrete measures and material aid, it is also important “to pray with those who are suffering to keep them from losing their faith.”
(Catholic bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporyzhya, Stanislav Shyrokoradiuk © Aid to the Church in Need)
The bishop, who was himself president of Caritas Spes for 20 years and thus oversaw the charitable activities of the church in the Ukraine, emphasised that people often expect the church to be able to provide them with all the material aid they need. He explained that even though the church is doing a great deal, it cannot assuage every material need. “More than anything, the mission of the church is to bring God to the people and proclaim the truth to them. We should not only give them bread and forget the soul. It is not enough to just do good deeds, we should not cheat the people of the grace necessary for their salvation.”
According to the bishop, it is also important to teach the people to thank God and the benefactors who made the help they received possible and explained, “We approach the distribution of material aid not as a kind of grab-and-go service, but make sure it is done in a beautiful and dignified manner. We hold a reading from the Gospels and the recipients of the aid pray the Lord’s Prayer together for those who donated the gifts. We tell them that God is the one who is giving them the bread, but that He is doing so through their benefactors.”
Bishop Shyrokoradiuk pointed out that the witnesses to the miraculous multiplication of the bread in the Gospels primarily came to Jesus to hear the word of God. Jesus then gave them the bread. He believes that the church needs to “maintain the balance” and place the emphasis on the spiritual. For this reason, it is important to not only engage in charitable work, but also build churches. For example, all the children’s homes in his diocese have a chapel. “The children go there to discuss their problems with God,” he reported, stressing just how important this is.
Last year, Aid to the Church in Need supported pastoral projects in the Ukraine with a total of $6.68 million. The aid was primarily used to build and renovate churches and monasteries, train priests and religious, secure the livelihood of religious sisters as well as acquire vehicles for pastoral care.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 172 languages and 50 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information or to make a donation to help the work of Aid to the Church in Need, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: email@example.com or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 7246 Baulkham Hills NSW 2153.
On Line donations can be made at www.aidtochurch.org