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Bishop Zaidan Calls for Peace and Humanitarian Aid

WASHINGTON – As Russia’s war against Ukraine enters its third year, the need for humanitarian assistance has greatly increased to help the millions of Ukrainians impacted by violence and destruction. People are struggling to survive in the cold winter with little food, heat, or shelter, said Bishop A. Elias Zaidan of the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon. As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, he urged the U.S. government to provide more aid immediately to alleviate the suffering of Ukrainians. Bishop Zaidan also expressed concern at Russia’s targeting of religious communities in Ukraine, destroying churches, arresting religious leaders, some of whom have been tortured and killed.

“The magnitude of the suffering in the Ukrainian conflict continues to sear the conscience of the faithful. According to a UN report, the number of civilians killed and injured since February 2022 exceeds 30,000. Schools, hospitals, apartments, and basic infrastructure supplying power have been hit by missiles. In the face of such destruction and death, people are repeatedly displaced, insecure as to where to find safety.

“The Catholic Church, including many Catholic welfare organizations are trying to meet these enormous needs both within Ukraine and in other countries impacted by this war which has raged on for two full years. The USCCB’s national collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe has been critical in providing much-needed aid to the region. Additionally, Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative has greatly heightened global food security concerns, increasing food prices, and jeopardizing the health and lives of poor and vulnerable people dependent on food assistance for survival. I urge the U.S. government to do all that it can to provide much needed humanitarian assistance quickly.

“At the same time, there are reports of religious communities, particularly the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, being attacked by Russian forces in territories they have seized. Over 600 religious structures have been damaged, some occupied by Russian forces and turned into military bases. Clergy have been harassed, persecuted, kidnapped, and even killed.

“On January 8, Pope Francis spoke about Ukraine saying we cannot allow the persistence of a conflict that continues to metastasize to the detriment of millions of persons. He also underscored that it is necessary to put an end to the present tragedy through negotiations, in respect for international law. I join with our Holy Father in calling for an end to the violence in Ukraine and call on all the faithful and people of good will to join with the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, in setting aside February 24 as a solemn day of prayer, fasting for the end of the war and for peace to come to this war-torn land.”