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World News

The Ukrainian army chaplain who is praying for Russian families

by Glyn Jones

A year ago, having just finished his training, Father Roman Mentukh was excited to be assigned to work at the Garrison Church of St Peter and St Paul in Lviv, western Ukraine.

But after two months of the war with Russia, he is emotionally drained and physically exhausted.

Too often, as the army chaplain stands in front of the altar and looks out into the church, he sees the coffins of Ukrainian soldiers.

The 27 year old Catholic priest shares his grief at having to say mass so often at funerals, "Some of them are younger than me. It's painful. Of course, it's painful.

"It's the hardest thing", Father Mentukh admits, "when you look at our heroes - our defenders who are now dead. It reminds us that we have war, massive war."

The UK government estimates that 15,000 members of the Russian military have also died during the war.

Father Mentukh says his main priority is to minister to the Ukrainian soldiers at the barracks in Lviv, army families and refugees from other parts of the country who have fled from the worst of the fighting. But, in his prayers, he includes the families of the Russians who have been killed in the war.

"I understand that we cannot try to defeat evil with another evil. So, I am also trying to pray for them and trying to pray for their families."

The Church of St Peter and St Paul was full over Easter, and the priests added extra services so that all of the soldiers who wanted to attend mass could have the opportunity.

The army chaplain tells Premier that the troops value the fact that prayers are being said for them.

"Our soldiers say to us that it's very important. They're feeling all our prayers. They understand that this day (could) be their last day."

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