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Ukraine clergy in need of 'urgent help' as demand for pastoral care soars

by Donna Birrell

A Ukrainian bishop is warning that clergy in his country need urgent help as they are under huge pressure as desperate families look to the church for support.

Speaking on the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, Head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s Pastoral Council and Bishop of the Eparchy of Holy Family of London, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) that while supporting displaced and broken families is the Church’s primary focus, clergy providing pastoral care also need assistance.

He added that the Church is developing training programmes for clergy in Ukraine and beyond “who, day in and day out have to be dealing with funerals and having to counsel” victims of war. He said that seminaries do not prepare clergy for the highly demanding trauma counselling duties which is required of many of them.

But that an initiative called ‘Healing the Wounds of War’ is becoming a priority for Ukrainian bishops around the world: “We cannot make priests psychiatrists or psychologists in six easy lessons.

“But we can at least prepare them to be able to direct people to the right places to receive help and [assist them to cope with] the effects of hearing these stories and having to deal with so many deaths – not just ordinary, normal deaths but people dying in war.”

The UGCC is also working with other organisations, such as the Association of Ukrainian Women in Great Britain, to provide mental health support for refugees – mostly women with dependent children.

There are more than 6.3 million Ukrainian refugees around the world – about 170,000 of them in the UK – and up to 3.7 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Ukraine, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.


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