Fr. inf. Ireneusz Skubiś talks with bishop Marian Buczek– a Secretary of the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference

FR. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ: – On 19 March 2014, Bishop as a Secretary of the Ukrainian Episcopal Conference hosted all Latin bishops of this country. What topics were the subject of that meeting?

BISHOP MARIAN BUCZEK: – There is tradition in Ukraine that Roman-Catholic bishops gather together twice a year in various dioceses. Such meetings have already been held in all dioceses – five years ago we gathered in our con-cathedral in Zaporoże and now the 43rd Conference of the Roman-Catholic Episcopate will be held in Eastern Ukraine. All bishops will arrive and we will see how it will be with the bishop of Kremlin, who does not leave his believers, there is going to be the apostolic nuncio archbishop Thomas Gullickson. The subject of our meeting is going to be the contemporary situation of Ukraine, time after Majdan and the new authority. Our task is to help the country spiritually. There are going to be subjects discussed which are present at the meeting of the all-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, in which we are represented by archbishop Piotr Malczuk OFM from Kiev. We are going to analyze the issue of the influence of mass media on the situation in the country. We also have other problems to discuss, among the others, the issue of translating liturgical books, rituals, lectionary and our contemporary Ukrainian language. In liturgy we use the Russian language in relation to the lack of theological dates in the Ukrainian language, therefore, translation is sometimes difficult for us. However, we try to do it. We edited, among the others, a new edition of the Roman Missal in the Ukrainian translation, we have a few rituals – the rest must be elaborated. An important issue is still the presence of the Church in media. In Kiev we have the Radio Maryja and the Catholic Television, and we try to speak through them as bishops, we give information and reports. We also have our websites in every diocese. Thanks to these media people get to know a lot not only about the life of the local Church in every diocese but also whole Ukraine and the universal Church, including the Church in Poland.

– Is the prayer for peace in Ukraine a prayer of all religions, as Ukraine is also, for example, Tatars – the Muslims?

– In Ukraine all religions are praying for peace because they are aware that every disagreement, conflict, and war are a tragedy for everybody. The Council of Christian Churches and the all-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, which gathers not only the Catholics, the Orthodox and the Protestants but also the believers of Islam or representatives of the Moses’ religion, appeals for prayers in mosques, synagogues, catholic churches, orthodox churches, in protestants houses. We also meet at common prayers, among the others, on the occasion of the 200thbirth anniversary of Taras Szewczenko, a great Ukrainian poet, I was in Charkow, there were two orthodox representatives with us – bishop and an abbot of the monastery, there was a Muslim priest, a priest from the Apostolic Armenian Church. So, the Christians and non-Christians – we all meet together at prayers, whole-night divine services for the deceased who participated in a fight on behalf of the authority. We pray for everybody because they were killed needlessly and the problem could have been solved on a peaceful, diplomatic-political way. It depends on us, religious leaders, to receive pace through a prayer, but, basing on the Holy Scripture which says how to solve problems or pointing out to examples, for example, blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko – we should convince people that we must respond to the power of evil with the power of the good. Otherwise, the victory is the rule: eye for eye, tooth for tooth and, as a result, it gives nothing because blood leads to bloodshed. Here it is necessary – as Christ taught as well as St. Paul and blessed Fr. Jerzy – to inhibit emotions, reach to the human conscience and gain the heart of an opponent. Finally, he will understand arguments and will accept the good which is for him, for me and for the country, for homeland.

– What does Your Excellency think, can particular Churches help one another?

– The situation is not easy. Now, in the central and western Ukraine there is peace but there are also the casualties, invalids and lost families – we are trying to help them. The situation is worse if we consider Kremlin, which is isolated now, there is shortage of food there, people are asking what to do with it. In our diocese – consisting of 7 provinces near the border with Russia – there were various quarrels, there were paid hooligans. Here one must keep calm and not allow for being provoked. We must explain our people, especially the young ones, who are still immature and emotional, that it is often better to withdraw and not go bare-handed into a fight on barricades. We must meet together and talk because then the situation can be presented in a different way. Especially that when we talk with provokers, they will finally admit that they have been sent and told to behave in this not the other way.
So, the role of the Church is very important here – in order to open people’s eyes and also prevent them from continuous attacks. We must remember that the East of Ukraine is a great national-religious mosaic. There has always been tolerance here, thanks God, there were not any conflicts because of different religions or nationalities; in our Charkow we hear all languages, ranging from the Vietnamese to Polish and we hope it will still be so. There are attempts to show that Eastern Ukraine is purely Russian. Well, people speak Russian because there did not use to be Ukrainian or Polish schools, but they say: my origin is Ukrainian or my origin is Polish. They are connected with Ukraine and often have mixed families, some of which live, for example, in Russia. However, when one talks with them, like builders, they say: changes will not do any good for us, we want to work and live normally. Whereas, here there are attempts to bring social anxiety, scare with nationalists from the west of the country. Yes, mass media can do a good job and sometimes lead to psychical torment of people.

– The whole world is calling for peace in Ukraine, as well as the Church is appealing for peace…

– We hear these appeals undertaken by various media, both the ecclesiastical and secular ones. Today technology is so developed that pressing a button of a computer, within a second I can get the news about a situation. It is comforting. On the recent days I was in Lebanon for a week with my auxiliary bishop – because we take care of a group of the Lebanese in a diocese – and we had an occasion to meet a patriarch there, and many priests and laymen, including politicians. And everybody were asking the basic question: why did the Christians attack the Christians? They cannot understand it. One could still understand the situation of opposing to the Church by the Muslims, Moses’ believers, but how to understand the opposing of the Christians to the Christians? The orthodox Churches which are in Ukraine, do not understand it either. After all, these soldiers or quasi-Russian soldiers who were attacking Kremlin, are also orthodox. Therefore, we, priests, have to comfort and cheer up everybody.
We need a cry in the world so that everyone would understand what happened in Kremlin, because this is great aggression, a kind of misunderstanding. Finally, we all lose. Therefore, the West, with so many possibilities, like the summit meeting G8, should say definitely: it is not allowed. Talk politically because everything is possible to solve. Surely, nobody is ideal, sometimes those who are the most righteous, cause a confrontation. And now, also at every moment there can be revenge for the revenge. We all are aware that we cannot allow for military escalation, because the machine of cruelty, when it is started, is difficult to stop.

– Does Your Excellency think that diplomatic actions in defence of peace in Ukraine are strong enough?

– It seems that they are a bit too weak. Because here it is all about not only comforting people, but showing that it can be solved in a different way. For, if something like the situation in Kremlin is taking place in the XXI century in Europe, so many years after the war, it is very worrying. Thanks God, there were not such big conflicts in Ukraine or even after the collapse of the Soviet Union on the European territory. Indeed, European politicians said what they thought, but Russia is acting with the method of the so-called accomplished facts. Diplomacy is too weak. I cannot influence either a particular diplomat or the president of the USA or Germany. Especially when we see a big perversity in what is happening in Kremlin. Russia says clearly: there are not our soldiers there, but we see a dozen thousand unmarked soldiers speaking Russian.
The West should react definitely, because it has experience from various continents, including the European one – the war in the former Yugoslavia showed what had happened there. Various aggressors were doing what they wanted but innocent people were killed. Only after some time did diplomats start talking and admitting their fault. We, in Ukraine, are waiting for the attitude of the West.

– What can we do for you, how can we help?

– The first help which the Christian Catholics can give is a prayer and adoration. Now, at the time of the Lent we have such expiatory possibilities for our sins, we can compensate God for sinners and ask for peace. On the other hand – the man wants to live, have food and life in dignity. There are people who really need help. Material help would really be useful – rather the financial one, in respect to uncertain transport – especially that the Easter is coming. In Zaporoże people receive help from Albertin Brothers who give people dinner in winter. The similar situation is in Charkow - here Orion’s Sisters with the Foundation of St. Wincenty a Paulo give help. They do not ask about religion or origin. But this activity needs money. People also receive clothes, shoes and stand in queues from 11.00. Now, in this respect, we rely on Poland. Although you are not a rich country in Europe, we see this Polish miracle that a widow’s penny can do miracles, when we consider building or renovations of churches, chapels, parish houses, catechist rooms. Here we must remember that in Ukraine there is not Religious Education and it is taught only in churches and chapels. In Charkow, thanks to God, it is the second year children have been learning in warm classes – before they were learning in metal cold barracks. It was a miracle from God and Poles that we were able to build a part of the house and we hope that despite the difficult economic and political situation, somehow against hope, somebody will help us and we will live in dignity.

– Ukraine is very close to Poland. Caritas Polska is making a lot of effort in order to collect a lot of means, and I think that our talk will contribute to awaking hearts of those who have not been engaged in this help yet. We will inform everybody about it and we will broadcast this talk on Catholic radio stations. We are with you!

– We will be talking about this issue – logistics of distribution of help sent to us during a conference of the Episcopate. Ukraine is a big country and my diocese has 200 thousand km2, that is, 2/3 of Poland and comprises 7 provinces. We are trying to be with people and help them through priests and laymen.


"Niedziela" 13/2014

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: