PHILADELPHIA. As Russia’s brutal attacks on Ukraine continue, the Paschal Triduum has taken on an even deeper meaning for Ukrainian Catholics in the U.S.
“I think many members of our Church who have passed a second Lent during this intense and brutal time of the full-scale Russian invasion are quite tired,” said Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia, addressing faithful at a March 31 liturgy he concelebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in that city. “It’s the second year of this war, but really it is the 10th year of the war.”
Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine Feb. 24, 2022, continuing attacks begun in 2014 with the attempted annexation of Crimea and the backing of separatists in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
“The daily deaths, the notices, and the anticipation of the death and destruction that we have been looking at on social media and in news reports is heavy,” said Archbishop Gudziak. “And that is why we need what is coming (during the Triduum) so much more.”
From 2014 to 2021, some 14,400 Ukrainians were killed and 39,000 injured in Russian attacks, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Since the February 2022 invasion, more than 8,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and more than 13,200 injured.
U.S. officials have estimated upwards of 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded. More than 8 million refugees have been recorded across Europe, with 4.85 million registered for some form of temporary protection, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
“As the enemy keeps killing our brothers and sisters, the anxiety persists. And although it’s hard to endure such an injustice, it helps us understand how great was the pain of our Savior who took on our sins,” Father Yurii Sas, pastor of St. John the Baptizer Ukrainian Catholic Church in San Diego, told OSV News. “When we meditate upon his suffering, we can comprehend the cost at which we were saved, and how much the misery of an innocent Christ was needed to free us from sin.”
Such reflection is counterintuitive in “contemporary society, which is becoming less and less capable of dealing with death,” said Archbishop Gudziak.
Efforts to control death, which include everything from plastic surgery to euthanasia, deny that “the real answer is the greatest death of all, that of Our Savior,” he said.
“Jesus will be with us this week. … He will be with all human fear and anxiety, all suffering and destruction, all pain and sorrow. He will be with us in our death,” Archbishop Gudziak said. “And we have the privilege to be with him in his death, and that will take us into his resurrection. It’s the source of the deepest truth, the most embracing story. It is the source and the end of our peace.”
With some 66,000 war crimes reported since February 2022, Ukraine has filed charges of genocide by Russia with the International Court of Justice. More than 19,500 Ukrainian children have been abducted by Russia over the past year, according to Ukraine”s government. On March 17, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian president Vladimir Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, charging the two with the war crimes of “unlawful deportation” and “unlawful transfer” of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.
The atrocities are “a despicable moral abomination scarring human history” and spark “a global moral yearning for justice,” said Jonathan Peri, president of Manor College, a Catholic college in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, founded by the Sisters of St. Basil the Great.
“The war in Ukraine has been a Gethsemane and crucifixion for many,” Basilian Sister Ann Laszok, director of the Basilian Spirituality Center in Jenkintown, told OSV News. “But we believe in the resurrection that will follow.”