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World News

'They have not felt abandoned’: Ukrainian Catholic Bishop commends Church support ahead of war's second anniversary

by Kelly Valencia

The Catholic bishop of Ukrainians in London has commended the nationwide support churches have provided to refugees settling in the UK.

Speaking to Premier, Rt Rev Kenneth Nowakowski expressed his gratitude to congregations from all faiths for rallying around to provide sanctuary and practical help to those displaced by Russia’s invasion.

“They have not felt abandoned,” Bishop Kenneth said. “We have seen how faith leaders and Christian churches have come together and supported various initiatives. Over 60,000 ordinary British citizens have opened their homes to shelter Ukrainians here.”

Following the full-scale invasion in February 2022, the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in central London initiated the Welcome Centre in partnership with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain. Inaugurated by King Charles in November 2022, the centre provides English classes, essential information for UK newcomers, and pastoral and spiritual care.

Bishop Kenneth explained the cathedral has experienced growth, witnessing thousands attending services, 260 baptisms, and the formation of three new congregations in the last two years. Many attend church for the sense of community, and many come with tough questions about their own faith.

“At the Cathedral and throughout our churches in the United Kingdom, we offer spiritual help. We answer the question, ‘Where is God in this conflict?’ Well, God is right here with us. How could this be happening? Why do bad things happen to me? Why is God allowing this? Those are very, very tough questions which we are not afraid to respond to.

“Often, we are the voice they're looking to hear because God is acting through his Christian people, through those who are faithful to him.”

Churches in Ukraine have also served as bases for humanitarian aid organisations and as sanctuaries for many. Bishop Kenneth commended their service, too.

However, speaking about the war anniversary, Bishop Kenneth said it was “tragic” to see the nation enter a third year of war and described the last two years as a “nightmare that has gone on for too long.”

“It’s been a two-year nightmare, not just for me, but for the people of Ukraine,” Bishop Kenneth said. “Every day, we're in touch with our family and friends in Ukraine, and we hear the news of the deaths, the destruction of civilian homes, hospitals, cultural centres, universities, and schools. And it's very, very difficult for all of us, especially approaching this second-year anniversary.”

When asked about the sentiments of people in Ukraine, Bishop Kenneth shared their plea for the West not to forget them. 

In commemoration of the invasion's second anniversary, an ecumenical interreligious prayer service will be held at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, followed by a march in central London organised by Ukrainian community organisations and concluding in a vigil in Trafalgar Square.

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