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“Rescue the victims from the hand of their oppressors” (Jer. 22:3) The Letter of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC in Ukraine on War and Just Peace in the Context of New Ideologies

March 5, 2024, 21:00 1277

The Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine issued the Letter on War and Just Peace in the Context of New Ideologies “Rescue the victims from the hand of their oppressors” (Jer. 22:3). The text of the Letter was approved at the 96th session of the Synod, held on February 7–8, 2024 in Lviv.

“Rescue the victims from the hand of their oppressors” (Jer. 22:3) The Letter of the Synod of Bishops of the UGCC in Ukraine on War and Just Peace in the Context of New Ideologies
A Ukrainian flag flies between houses destroyed by shelling in the Ukrainian town of Borodyanka, photo credit: Sergey Supinsky / AFP через Getty Images

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Updated on May 14, 2024 at 12:45 pm

“Rescue the victims from the hand of their oppressors” (Jer. 22:3)

The Letter of the Synod of Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine
on War and Just Peace in the Context of New Ideologies

“Near indeed is his salvation for those who fear him;
glory will dwell in our land”
(Ps. 85:10).

Dearly beloved in Christ!

Introduction

1. For ten years now we have been living in the conditions of war, and for two of these years Ukraine has been plunged into the flames of a war of liberation from the full-scale invasion of the Russian aggressor. The time of war is extremely painful and cruel: it causes countless traumas to every person and the whole of society. Every day we receive tragic news about the death of Ukrainians; many have already lost family members and friends; we are witnessing the destruction of what is most precious to us — our Homeland, our families’ well-being, our happiness, our dreams. In such circumstances it is very understandable that a person be inclined to surrender to emotions: to plunge into despair and hopelessness, or to permit hate to reign in one’s soul. These feelings of despair and hatred enslave us and violate our dignity, which the Creator gave us. Such sentiments of many Ukrainians are aptly expressed in the words of the psalmist, David: “My soul too is shuddering greatly — and you, Lord, how long…?” (Ps. 6:4); “How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look upon me, answer me, Lord, my God!!” (Ps. 13:3–4). At the same time, a part of society becomes indifferent: some people who have been affected by the war, but perhaps less than many others, try not to notice it, as if to forget about it. Behind this attitude can hide both a psychological mechanism of self-defense or the moral illness of indifference.

2. 2. First and foremost, we need to realize that winning the fight against such an insidious enemy requires perseverance. Such perseverance has nothing in common with indifference to or distancing from the experience of the country and the people. On the contrary, perseverance is always associated with activity, with a sacrificial love that is ready to serve over a long period: “And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (Jas. 1:4). A short-term explosion of feelings or enthusiasm cannot be sustained for a long distance. Rather, this requires enduring effort. Not in vain did Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky encourage young people: “It is not by a single minute’s outburst, but only by persistent struggle and unceasing sacrifices, even to blood and death for many generations, that the nation moves forward” [1]. Our defenders, who for many weeks and months have daily stood guard and resisted the aggressor, understand this very well. This is why we call all to perseverance and active deeds of love and with today’s letter seek to present certain moral principles and foundations upon which a lasting and just peace can be built in our homeland.

3. Clear understanding of the moral and spiritual foundations that guide our actions during a time of war and upon which we will build our future after its end with the achievement of a just peace is absolutely necessary to ensure that our efforts are a purposeful movement toward the kind of victory we desire. Christian tradition as a whole and the social teaching of the Catholic Church in particular have a long tradition of theological and philosophical reflection on peace and war that is especially helpful in the current circumstances of our country. Thus, our goal is to share with Ukrainian society and all people of goodwill a relevant part of these treasures.

4. The Russian war against Ukraine raises new challenges and problems for this centuries-long tradition of understanding peace and war. On the international stage, we witness support for our country; yet at the same time, we also encounter a lack of understanding of the depth and seriousness of these events along with premature hopes for an easy resolution to the conflict. Sometimes we hear overly hasty calls for peace, which unfortunately are not always connected with a proper demand for justice. “They have treated lightly the injury to my people: ‘Peace, peace!’ they say, though there is no peace,” the prophet Jeremiah calls out to our consciences (Jer. 6:14). Therefore, it is worthwhile that the Christian doctrine of peace and war be considered in the light of the contemporary Ukrainian experience, so that it may bring us the desired fruit and illuminate our aspirations and efforts with the truth of the Gospel. This letter aims then, on the one hand to assist our people to become wiser and stronger through enrichment by venerable Christian thought on peace and war, and on the other, to contribute to a better understanding by the international community of contemporary challenges and the place of Ukraine on the spiritual map of today’s world.

I. Causes and Origins of Russia’s Contemporary War Against Ukraine

5. 5. It is impossible to comprehend the reasons for Russia’s war against Ukraine and find the proper spiritual means for victory and a just peace without understanding the broader background of current events, and also without realizing the basic principles of social justice in both social relations within each state governed by the law and in international relations with the foundations of international law. The roots of what is happening today date back at least to the last century, or even much earlier. The twentieth century witnessed the emergence of totalitarian regimes in Europe, primarily in Germany and Russia, which caused terrible wars and committed numerous crimes against humanity. The main characteristic of totalitarianism is disregard for the freedom and dignity of the human person. In this sense, totalitarian regimes are forms of state structures that are called “tyranny” in the Christian intellectual tradition [2]. Tyrants, as well as the struggle for freedom against them, have been known since the earliest times of human history; but in the totalitarianism of the twentieth century, tyranny acquired an unprecedented scale. First, in the struggle against freedom, these totalitarian regimes used modern technical means that did not exist in the past (radio, cinema, modern weapons, means of systematic mass killing such as gas chambers, etc.). These technical means ensured total control over those subjected and led to an unprecedented number of victims, reaching tens of millions. Secondly, totalitarianism began to monitor not only the social behavior of the human person but also the interior sphere of his or her life. This is how it differs from another form of tyranny, authoritarianism. The latter still leaves a person a certain amount of personal latitude for individual conscience, provided that he or she is externally loyal to the government. Instead, totalitarian rulers seek to conquer the very soul and completely master the human personality: the subject of a totalitarian state must adore his or her tormentors. Totalitarianism thus has a pseudo-religious character. The tyrants of the twentieth century destroyed or repressed the Church because they competed with religion and wanted to replace the spiritual values of traditional religions with their own ideology.

6. As a result of the Second World War, one of the two main totalitarian monsters of the twentieth century, National Socialist Germany, was defeated. The Nazi totalitarian ideology and its crimes were put on trial in Nuremberg. In the decades that followed, West Germany went through a difficult and painful process of purification and became a democratic state. By contrast, the second totalitarian monster, the Soviet Union with communist Russia at its core, was not only not destroyed but also appeared before the world among the victors of the war, even claiming to be the main liberator from Nazism. Therefore, one of the four judges at the Nuremberg Tribunal was a representative of the Soviet Union, even though the crimes of the communist rulers were no less or even greater than those of the leaders of Nazi Germany. Ecclesiastes warned, however: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not promptly executed, the human heart is filled with the desire to commit evil” (Eccl. 8:11). So, after 1945 the USSR even expanded its geographical sphere of influence and conquered the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, creating satellite regimes in them and founding the Eastern Bloc of Communist states, which opposed the countries of the free world. It took more than forty years of the Cold War for the communist and atheist Soviet Union to reach complete ideological, economic, and social decline and eventually cease to exist.

7. The collapse of the USSR in 1991 brought liberation to those countries of Central and Eastern Europe that had been part of the communist bloc. It also gave a chance for freedom and a dignified life to the nations that had constituted socialist republics within the Soviet Union. Among these nations were Ukrainians, who gained the independence and national state they had dreamed of for centuries. It is worth mentioning that it was our Church, which was criminally banned by the communist rulers after World War II, was persecuted and kept underground throughout the Soviet period, that became one of the most important forces for change in Ukraine: the struggle for the legalization of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1989–1991 was an important contribution to the destruction of the Soviet atheist empire, and after independence, the faithful of our Church tried spiritually to support the new nation-state and were consistent supporters of its renunciation of the totalitarian communist past. The journey to true freedom and liberation from the negative legacy of the twentieth century has been long and difficult for our country. Nevertheless, we see good achievements along the way, especially in the development of a strong civil society in Ukraine, as evidenced by the Orange Revolution of 2004, the Revolution of Dignity of 2013–2014, and the current heroic struggle against Russian aggression. The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church is an integral part of civil society and therefore cannot stand aloof from its just aspirations to have proper control over state power, build a fair democracy, and protect the rule of law and human dignity.

8. A significant error of the free world after the collapse of the communist bloc was that democratic countries did not demand post-Soviet Russia, which was recognized as the successor to the Soviet Union, condemn fully the crimes of the communist period and require the new Russian rulers to ensure decommunization, lustration, and purification of their state from the consequences of totalitarianism. Nothing similar to what happened in Germany after World War II was done in Russia. There were signs of thinking not focused on spiritual values, but on economics: many in the world thought that the process of democratization in Russia would take place as if by itself, under conditions of private enterprise development, strengthening of economic levers, and trade with the free world. The world’s democracies hoped that deepening economic ties with Russia would help build trust and sustainable peace. These hopes, however, proved ultimately to be in vain, as the Kremlin used this situation to accumulate resources for another war. The democratic world — perhaps without realizing it — has become accustomed over time to use double standards in its relations with Russia for economic gain, something which clearly contradicts Christian teaching: “Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good” (Rm. 12:9). Indeed, in the Bible we often find texts that warn of the danger of underestimating the power of evil and naively hoping that it will simply disappear of itself: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour” (1 Pt. 5:8; cf. Eph. 5:11; 2 Tm. 4:3–4). These cautions were not considered, however, and so not only did Soviet totalitarianism escape its “Nuremberg”, but the international community did not develop mechanisms for quickly identifying security threats and responding to a possible repetition of the tragedies of the twentieth century. All of this has led to fatal consequences: today we are dealing with an attempt to restore aggressive, militaristic totalitarianism in Russia in its new hybrid or postmodern form.

9. The new Russian tyranny of the twenty-first century is similar to the totalitarianism of the twentieth century, primarily because it is a ruthless enemy of human freedom and dignity. Like the totalitarian regimes of the recent past, it uses the latest technical means and seeks to conquer not only the bodies but also the souls of people. At first glance, modern Russian tyranny seems to be less cruel and totalitarian than communist and national socialist totalitarianism. In fact, it transforms the totalitarian features of the past into much more insidious, and therefore even more dangerous forms that can be called hybrid. The first feature of the new Russian totalitarianism is that it does not need ideology in the form that was characteristic of communism and national socialism, with its own “holy scripture”, i.e., a body of “canonical” texts by leaders and ideologues that set forth a more or less coherent theory of the future to achieve some utopian “great purpose”. Such an ideology, although it was false and ugly, still wanted to have its own “moral code” and used the phraseology of social justice. Instead, modern Russian totalitarianism does not claim to have positive content and a coherent theory. It is propaganda for nihilism in its worst forms; and its goal is the moral corruption of man, his dehumanization in order to make him weak-willed, indifferent to moral values, a tool for crimes against humanity. It seeks to undermine faith in any moral principles and tempts its subjects with the opportunity to commit violence against others with impunity. It claims that the whole world is governed only by brutal force, deception, and self-interest. Putting forward various conspiratorial theories of a global plot against Russia, it uses them to justify any crimes committed by the Russian government against other nations. In its cult of the ruler, militarism, corporatism, open propaganda of brutal violence, and emphasis on its own national and racial superiority, the modern tyranny of Moscow has much in common with the fascism of the last century; and therefore, it is not surprising that the apposite word “ruscism” has been coined to describe it.

10. The second feature of modern Russian hybrid totalitarianism is the qualitatively higher level of technical tools. The tools used by the tyrants of the twentieth century have evolved radically in recent decades; cultural communication and technologies have improved by many levels. Moscow’s ruscism effectively uses the achievements of information technology, including social media. The digital revolution to some extent helps Russian propaganda to create a different, virtual reality that is radically different from actual reality and, what is more, distorts it. With its practical actions, production of fakes and postulation of post-truth, modern Russian propaganda makes use of some of the most radical movements of philosophical postmodernism from the end of the last century, which denied the existence of objective and verifiable truth and claimed that there are no natural foundations of morality and law. Thus, modern Russian tyranny can be called not only hybrid but also postmodern totalitarianism.

11. When it comes to Ukraine, all these features of hybrid totalitarianism are superimposed on another extremely important factor: the colonizing legacy of imperial, tsarist Russia. Most of the territory on which Ukrainians had lived was conquered and subjugated by Muscovy, a state entity that eventually adopted the name “Russian Empire”, between the second half of the seventeenth and mid-eighteenth centuries. Since then, the Russian government has banned and suppressed Ukrainian culture, language, Churches, and identity; it has claimed that Ukrainians are only a more recent, smaller, lower-grade part of the Russian population. As indicated by numerous public texts and speeches of contemporary high-level Russian leaders and propagandists, today this traditional Muscovite imperial ideology has acquired a radical militant character and calls for the complete destruction of the Ukrainian state and Ukrainian identity as such. The war being waged by Russia against Ukraine has all the features of a neocolonial war on the European continent with clear signs of genocide. The destruction of everything that is Ukrainian has become the political program of Russian leaders, their mania, which is supported by a significant portion of the citizens of the aggressor state, indicating the ailing state of Russian society. That is why calls for a compromise with Russia, which Ukraine occasionally hears from some representatives of the international community and even members of religious communities, have no real basis and demonstrate a lack of understanding of the situation in which Ukrainians find themselves. The problem lies not only in the fact that such calls lack solid moral foundations, in as much as they disregard the principles of respect for human dignity and just peace, but also in the fact that they are simply unrealistic: a compromise cannot be reached if one of the parties denies the very existence of the other. Russia leaves Ukraine no choice but to defend itself militarily. This war is a national struggle of liberation for the Ukrainian civil nation on behalf of the right to its own existence and future, as well as the independence, freedom, and dignity of our citizens.

II. From the “Russian World” (Russkiy mir) to “ruscism”: the Path of Degradation of the Aggressor State

12. From what has been said about contemporary Russian hybrid totalitarianism, its particular attitude toward religion and the Church follows. Orthodoxy in its Moscow-based form is being used in Russia today to fill the ideological vacuum that arose because of the fall of communism, by considering religion as a means of reinforcing state power and turning it into a political tool. At the same time, symbols of the communist period are strangely mixed with the mental paradigms of the tsarist empire. The Russian Orthodox Church has a long, one might say the centuries-long, tradition of serving the Russian government in its various, sometimes opposing historical forms, from the Orthodox rulers of the Tsardom of Moscow and the Russian Empire to the atheistic and communist Soviet Union. In all these configurations of the state, the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church sought to be in unity with the political authorities and benefit from a privileged position. Therefore, it should not be surprising that the Patriarch of Moscow supported and blessed Russia’s criminal war against the Ukrainian people. Such actions are in line with the Muscovite tradition of the Church’s ideological service to the authorities and its servility to those in power. Unfortunately, now this long-standing imperial tradition combined with modern post-communist totalitarianism has led to a real crime committed by the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate, namely to propagandizing the war. It was this church leadership that generated the new genocidal ideology now known as the “Russian World” and willingly offered its services to the criminal authorities and “sanctified” them. We observe this profound moral fall of the Moscow Patriarch and his religious supporters with great pain, for it compromises Christianity as such and undermines the trust of our contemporaries in the Church and all those who proclaim the name of Christ. Therefore, today it becomes especially urgent for everyone to “test the spirits” (cf. 1 Jn 4:1) in order to be able to distinguish political ideology hidden in pseudo-Christian rhetoric from true faith in Christ.

13. For many years, Ukrainian society has been trying to convey to the international community that a new aggressive ideology is emerging in Russia, a mixture of ressentiment, nationalism, and pseudo-religious messianism. During the entire period preceding the war, however, no one heard us. This ideology, which the Russian authorities named the “Russian World”, was established in Russia as the official and only correct ideology; and the role of the Moscow Patriarchate in creating and promoting this ideology is now well-known and undeniable. It is the Russian Orthodox Church that has given the “Russian World” ideology a quasi-religious spirit, in portraying Russia as the last bastion of Christianity on earth that resists the forces of evil. At the same time, the Russian Orthodox Church confers an almost sacred status on the deadliest nuclear weapons on earth.

14. The quasi-religious doctrine of the “Russian World” provided ideological justification for Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine. This aggression has brought to the surface a whole layer of issues that should have been left in the past. Thus, it would have seemed that attempts to ideologize Christianity, when it was identified with a particular country, nation, or nations along with their political ambitions and goals, had long since become history, as such instrumentalization contradicts the very essence of Christianity. Nevertheless, the whole world is now witnessing Russia’s most brutal use of Christian symbols and Gospel images to justify the violation of the international order, an attack on a sovereign state, and mass murder. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of such duplicity: “They ready their tongues like a drawn bow; with lying, and not with truth, they are powerful in the land” (9:2).

15. It is important for Christians around the world that the doctrine of the “Russian World” has been condemned by numerous representatives of the Orthodox community itself. In particular, a group of nearly 350 Orthodox theologians called it a heresy and a “vile and indefensible teaching” [3]. According to these theologians, the basis of the “Russian World” ideology is the false doctrine of ethnophyletism (the love of one’s nation above Christ and the Gospel). They also “rebuke all those who affirm caesaropapism, replacing their ultimate obedience to the crucified and resurrected Lord with that of any leader vested with ruling powers and claiming to be God’s anointed, whether known by the title of ‘Caesar,’ ‘Emperor,’ ‘Tsar,’ or ‘President.’” As these same theologians conclude, “If we hold such false principles as valid, then the Orthodox Church ceases to be the Church of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Apostles, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Ecumenical Councils, and the Fathers of the Church. Unity becomes intrinsically impossible” [4].

16. The Appeal of the Christian Churches of Ukraine to Condemn the Aggressive Ideology of the “Russkiy mir” states that “Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church have been and remain one of the main creators and propagandists of the ideology of the ‘Russian World,’ which provides for the exclusivity of the ‘Russian civilization’ and its separation and hostile confrontation with others. Such a position to exclude or discriminate against others based on ethnicity or cultural affiliation, however, does not correspond to the foundations of the Christian faith as such. Inciting hatred and waging war based on the ‘Russian World’ ideology violates Christian principles and contradicts the spiritual norms that the Church is supposed to embody. This ideology today is a challenge to the preaching of the Gospel in the modern world and destroys the credibility of Christian witness, regardless of confession” [5].

17. Eventually, this quasi-Christian doctrine degraded into the full-fledged ideology of ruscism with its cult of the ruler and the dead, a mythologized past, fascism’s inherent corporativism, total censorship, conspiracy theories, centralized propaganda, and a war to destroy another nation. The impression is given that ruscism has combined all previous ideological constructs, beginning from the Tsardom of Muscovy with its messianic ideas of “Holy Rus’” and “the Third Rome”, to the USSR with its aggressive imperialism and desire for global domination.

18. This degradation of the Christian nature of the Russian Orthodox Church has revealed major weaknesses in previous ecumenical dialogue. Its participants, having good will and intentions, remained deaf to warnings that the Moscow Patriarchate, as in the days of the USSR, was only instrumentalizing this dialogue. Eventually, we came to a point where this instrumentalization became visible, and the quasi-ideological formula “dialogue at any cost” became contrary to the Gospel principle “dialogue in truth”.

19. We can add to this that the European practice of “realpolitik”, which sometimes turned into complaisance before the powerful of this world, did not justify itself either. It was considered a reasonable approach that took into account the realities of life. Such a position, though, is rather evidence of fatalism and an acknowledgement of the alleged inability of the Gospel to illuminate the circuitous paths of human life, to which “sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life” (1 Jn. 2:16) lead people. Today, the world needs the prophetic voice of the Church, which will speak the language of justice, take the side of the offended, and discredit and condemn the offender.

20. The inability of the Christian world to find adequate spiritual and worldview-based solutions to these challenges from Russia is partly due to the fact that current Christian postulates in the international community have also undergone a certain ideologization. Evangelical fidelity to the truth, which in a situation of violent confrontation with evil turns into the sword of Christ (cf. Mt. 10:34), has conceded to the ideology of political correctness, which creates the illusion of the possibility of pacifying evil. The reasonable conclusion that only God has absolute truth has turned into a trap of ethical relativism, which gives legitimacy even to deliberately constructed lies. That is why it is so important for Christians critically to reflect on their preceding perceptions in order to find the truth again in the thicket of modern ideologies and thus restore their ability to “listen to [His] voice” (Jn. 18:37).

21. The current challenges brought about by the doctrine of the “Russian World” and the shift toward relativism bring great spiritual and ideological confusion to the human community, causing many people and even some governments to lose the ability to distinguish between truth and deception, good and evil. The tragedy of the current war is that the very language of spiritual values is threatened, as Russia and other authoritarian regimes use this language to persuade people’s hearts to commit terrible sin “as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power” (2 Tm. 3:5). For example, the concept of “spiritual combat” has acquired a distorted meaning in Russia and is discredited at a time when authentic spiritual confrontation with evil is becoming almost the only means of saving humanity.

22. The ideological manipulativeness of the “Russian World” doctrine leads also to pastoral losses, not only those regarding worldview. While seemingly defending the interests of the Russian people and elevating them above other nations, this doctrine actually leaves them without pastoral care. The souls of Russians hear the voice of an earthly Caesar rather than the voice of God and therefore become defenseless against the demons of Russian history. Thus, in a spiritual sense, the flock of this Church is abandoned to its own devices.

III. Nonviolent Resistance

23. Looking to Christ and following the encouragement of his disciples and apostles, many early Christians chose a spiritual path that today is described as nonviolent resistance. They were convinced that Jesus’ example of forgiveness and mercy, his refusal to defend his life through physical resistance, was an ethical call that precluded discipleship which accepted the shedding of blood. This very path was taken by the ancient Kyivan princes Borys and Hlib, who refused to engage in dynastic struggle and defend themselves by violent means (cf. Matt. 26:52). For this spiritual feat, the Kyivan Church proclaimed them among the first saints of the Kyivan lands.

24. Throughout history this way of opposition to aggression has taken on different forms and practical implementations. In particular, in the Middle Ages, those who sought to renew the Church called for a return to “pre-Constantinian” abstinence from any form of self-defense that involved the use of weapons. Nonviolent movements of the twentieth century are also widely known today.

25. In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, “Gaudium et Spes”, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council affirmed: “Motivated by this same spirit, we cannot fail to praise those who renounce the use of violence in the vindication of their rights and who resort to methods of defense which are otherwise available to weaker parties too, provided this can be done without injury to the rights and duties of others or of the community itself” [6]. Similar thoughts are found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church [7]. Then, in the Catechism of the UGCC, Christ — Our Pascha, we read: “War is a crime against life, for it brings with it suffering and death, grief and injustice. War cannot be regarded as a means of resolving conflicts. This can be achieved by other means which correspond with human dignity: international law, honest dialogue, solidarity among states, and diplomacy” [8]. Therefore, since the time of this Council, the Church has emphasized the right of every person to moral choice and discernment in wartime.

26. This tradition of nonviolent resistance has become an important part of the spiritual experience of humanity, but it cannot be considered the only one with evangelical legitimacy. St. Augustine rightly noted: “For if the Christian religion condemned wars of every kind, the command given in the gospel to soldiers asking counsel as to salvation would rather be to cast away their arms, and withdraw themselves wholly from military service; whereas the word spoken to such was, ‘Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages’” [9] (cf. Lk. 3:14). In other words, military service should be a service of peace and justice for the common good.

27. The Gospel is peace-loving and peacemaking, but not pacifist (in the modern sense of the term). It does not eliminate the duty of the state to protect the life and freedom of its citizens. After all, as St. Paul states, the state “does not bear the sword without purpose; it is the servant of God to inflict wrath on the evildoer” (Rm. 13:4). A person has the right to a fair trial, self-defense, the inviolability of his or her health and life; and the state’s task is to provide all the conditions for the realization of these rights. That is why God has given the state the power to stop violence, protect the innocent, preserve peace, and bring criminals to justice. For this law enforcement agencies and armed forces exist. We need to distinguish between the legitimate use of force and violence, because not all use of force is illegitimate violence. The state must ensure a fair trial because its task is to ensure that justice is done. If the state encourages people to do things that are contrary to their conscience, then we must be guided by what the Scriptures teach: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) [10].

28. It is extremely important to understand Jesus’ words about turning the other cheek (Mt. 5:39) and loving our enemies (Mt. 5:44) in context and correctly. We can forgive personal insults, but we do not have the right to remain silent when we see violence directed against other people. Moreover, there is evidence in the Scriptures that the one offended did not remain silent on account of violence was directed against him. For example, Jesus said: “Why do you strike me?” (Jn. 18:23), and St. Paul warned his offender: “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” (Acts 23:3). Therefore, forgiveness does not mean tacit approval of the offender’s actions and submission to evil, but rather overcoming them by the power of Christ. It only indicates that the Christian entrusts God with the restoration of justice, for “[v]engeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rm. 12:19).

29. Those contemporary pacifists who completely ignore the Gospel foundations of the objectivity of Truth often see peace as the fruit of appeasement of evil or compromise with it. In 1979 in Ireland, however, Pope St. John Paul II affirmed that peace is the result of adherence to “ethical principles” [11]. This is fully in line with the prophetic tradition: “The work of justice will be peace; the effect of justice, calm and security forever” (Is. 32:17). In 1981, the same pope expressed his conviction that wars arise as a result of invasions or as a result of ideological imperialism, exploitation, and other forms of injustice [12].

30. In order to achieve an illusory peace, pacifists are often willing — consciously or unconsciously — to remove the violators of peace from responsibility. The arguments vary and sometimes are even highly moral, such as the desire to avoid further human losses. This very argument is often raised in the context of Russia’s large-scale aggression against Ukraine. The words of the Apostle Paul should serve as a warning to the creators of a false peace: “When people are saying, ‘Peace and security,’ then sudden disaster comes upon them…” (1 Th. 5:3). For the aggressor concludes that its violence becomes as its legal right and tries by all means to achieve recognition of this “right to crime” under the guise of the legitimacy of its geopolitical interests and their justification. The lack of due condemnation and opposition to such actions by the international community and church leaders creates the illusion of success for this model of behavior by an entire state, which [model] not only does not find just opposition but rapidly spreads as if a legitimate model of international relations. The power of international law is replaced by the blind law of power. Instead of respect for the dignity and inviolability of a sovereign subject of international law, exclusive and special “rights” of modern world powers are affirmed, which then impose themselves in international relations as those who have the right to “patronage” over other sovereign states or directly declare the loss of a certain state’s or nation’s right to exist. This undermines the credibility of international law and any peace agreement based upon it. International cooperation and mutual trust come to a standstill, the world begins to arm itself and plunges deeper and deeper into a climate of fear, mutual threats, and ultimatums. This mode of imposition in international relations today, when the sovereignty of subjects of international law is sacrificed in the name of appeasing the claims of a global power, is very similar to the international climate in Europe and the world before the outbreak of World War II. Indeed, the aggressor again feels impunity and plays on this fear. Thus, the experience of the current Russian aggression demonstrates that unprincipled pacifist slogans of conciliation encourage the aggressor to further violence. In this historical context Ukraine’s decision thirty years ago to renounce its nuclear weapons and trust in the signatories of the Budapest Memorandum (an international agreement concluded on December 5, 1994, among Ukraine, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States on security guarantees for Ukraine in connection with its acquisition of a non-nuclear status) is a prophetic gesture of trust in the power of international law on the part of a Christian people and a manifesto of its national aspirations for a just security and peace. Today, this gesture of Ukraine deserves special attention and new comprehension.

31. Among the main reasons for the current commitment to pacifism is also the growing danger of war with the use of nuclear weapons. Often today, instead of a proclamation regarding the inadmissibility of such a war and a search for ways to abandon it altogether, one can find theories about the “limits of legitimate self-defense” of non-nuclear states and about “legitimate surrender” in order to avoid possible casualties. Is it really possible to prevent this by laying down arms in front of the aggressor, however? This is a question that has become acute in the context of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, and the entire international community must answer it. The hypothetical avoidance of responsibility by Russia, a nuclear power, for a criminal violation of international law and an attack on a sovereign state will only accelerate the growth of the number of nuclear powers on the planet. Now, after the start of Russia’s full-scale aggression against Ukraine, non-nuclear states feel more vulnerable than ever to the possessors of deadly warheads. If we further consider Russia’s seizure and shelling of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, the situation becomes even more alarming. How can we speak about international security today, when a state that is a member of the UN Security Council and possesses one of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, itself poses a threat to this security and resorts to outright nuclear blackmail of the entire international community in order to achieve its aggressive goals? The prophet Micah wrote about such brutal behavior: “You covet fields, and seize them; houses, and take them; you cheat owners of their houses, people of their inheritance” (2:2).

32. Adherence to the Decalogue is a prerequisite for a just society, and war is a brutal violation of God’s commandments. As the above-mentioned constitution “Gaudium et Spes” emphasizes, “Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and man himself. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation”. Can the human community leave without condemnation and accountability the genocide of Ukrainians that the Russian army has organized in Bucha, Borodyanka, Irpin, Mariupol, and many other occupied territories of Ukraine? Who will stand up for the victims and their families? The current cry of Ukrainians to the international community for justice has the full support of the Church, as she has always made and continues to make a preferential option for the offended. This choice is the essence of her mandate from our Lord Jesus Christ; and her warning against injustice does not come merely of itself: “Consider how one conceives iniquity; is pregnant with mischief, and gives birth to deception” (Ps. 7:15).

IV. Defensive War and Legitimate Defense

33. Since the time of St. Ambrose of Milan (340–397) and St. Augustine (354–430), given the real circumstances of the sinful world in which we live, the Church has been guided by a rule known today as the just war theory. This approach excluded any unprovoked aggression and any unjustified use of force, as well as contained rules of warfare.

34. Throughout history many Christian thinkers have reflected on these principles. The clear presence of evil in history has led to the realization that the defense of one’s neighbor and one’s own survival calls forth the need to resist armed aggression. Reflecting on the experience of the First World War, the righteous Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky spoke of the people’s right to self-defense and “the permissible defense of their own land, their own families, and their own homes” [14]. To ensure that defense does not escalate into violence and meets the criteria of proportionality, certain principles of a just defensive war were developed, or as we say today, the principles of legitimate self-defense. Scientific and technological progress, which led to the development of new, more dangerous weapons, and thus new threats, plus the emergence of new forms of social organization, could not but influence the evolution of the theory of the justice of such wars. The process of rethinking some of its aspects was particularly active after the end of World War II. Pope Pius XII (1939–1958) considered defensive wars just and emphasized that other nations have a duty not to abandon an attacked country in trouble. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in the constitution “Gaudium et Spes” stated that “[a]s long as the danger of war remains and there is no competent and sufficiently powerful authority at the international level, governments cannot be denied the right to legitimate defense once every means of peaceful settlement has been exhausted” [15].

35. After the Second World War and the establishment of the United Nations, international law ceased to operate with the concept of a “just war” and moved to a complete prohibition of warfare. According to the UN Charter, the use of armed force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state is recognized as unlawful, and all disputes between states are to be settled by peaceful means in such a way as not to endanger international peace and security, as well as justice [16]. Later, in Resolution 3314 (XXIX) “Definition of Aggression”, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 14, 1974, it was stated that no considerations of a political, economic, military, or other nature can justify an act of aggression [17].

36. The use of force is authorized only by a decision of the UN Security Council to the extent necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security or in the case of self-defense against an armed attack. Indeed, the UN Charter defines that the right to individual or collective self-defense against armed attack is inalienable; and the Charter itself does not limit this inalienable right in any way [18].

37. Pope St. John XXIII sought to shift the focus of the discussion of war and peace toward peacebuilding but did not deny the right of nations to self-defense in the event of an unprovoked attack [19]. Therefore, the Church distanced itself from the practice of naive pacifism, which often turns into moral blindness in distinguishing good and evil. Moreover, Pope St. Paul VI warned about “the snares of tactical pacifism, intended to drug the enemy one must overcome, to smother in men’s minds the meaning of justice, of duty and of sacrifice” [20].

38. The Catholic Church teaches that legitimate armed defense against an unjust attacker, as well as war in general, is always the last means to which a party in danger can resort. This is emphasized by the Catechism of the UGCC Christ — Our Pascha: “The use of military force may be justified only in the event of extreme necessity as a means of legitimate self-defense, and the Christian soldier is always a defender of peace” [21]. The Catechism of the Catholic Church outlines the elements of a just defensive war: “The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. the gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time: the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated,” [22] that is, when negotiations, arbitration, compromise, and other means have failed. As a rational being the human person is obliged to make decisions based on reasonable judgment and the law, rather than using force, whenever possible. For legitimate defense to be just, the safety of civilians must be kept in mind. This defense always has a clearly limited goal: a just peace, not the complete destruction of the enemy’s people, economy, or political institutions. In order to achieve a just peace, limited and proportionate means must be used: armaments and force must be measured to what is absolutely necessary to repel aggression and deter future attacks.

39. In his encyclical Fratelli Tutti, His Holiness Pope Francis warns against “an overly broad interpretation” of the right to legitimate defense, which could be instrumentalized by some for “preventive” attacks or actions that cause more evil than the one that needs to be eliminated; he also added that “it is very difficult nowadays to invoke the rational criteria elaborated in earlier centuries to speak of the possibility of a ‘just war’.” [23] This is a valid point, given the way Russian propaganda justifies its aggression against Ukraine. Does not such manipulation by Russia, however, indicate the need to develop even clearer and more precise criteria for legitimate defense, which would make it impossible for the aggressor to pretend to be a victim?

40. In light of the teachings of the Catholic Church, the Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine are legitimately defending the state and the people. Today, there is no shortage of evidence that Russia has been unwilling to resolve its conflicts with Ukraine at the negotiating table as an equal and sovereign partner. The aggressor country rejects the very right to existence of the Ukrainian people and their state as a subject of international law, refusing to engage in dialogue and negotiations with a sovereign Ukraine. It is impossible to “engage in dialogue with someone who does not exist”, as Russian propaganda constantly repeats. According to the already discussed modern Russian ideology of ruscism, the “Ukrainian issue” must be resolved once and for all through the complete destruction of everything Ukrainian. Since 2014 Russia has carried out unprovoked acts of aggression against Ukraine, first occupying the Crimean Peninsula and then launching a proxy war in Donbas. In 2022 it launched a full-scale invasion and, using a wide range of weapons, mercilessly destroys civilian infrastructure, terrorizes, and kills civilians. The Ukrainian army is up against an extremely powerful military machine that uses a full range of sophisticated weapons and periodically threatens to launch a nuclear strike against a non-nuclear country, to which it had guaranteed security and territorial integrity by signing the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.

V. Neutrality in Time of War

41. Neutrality can indeed be the result of prudent judgment and analysis. There are situations in which a country does not want to deepen a conflict through its involvement or wants to mediate between the opposing sides. Such neutrality has its pitfalls, however: there is a limit beyond which such a position begins to be a betrayal of one’s own values and principles and even plays into the hands of the wrongdoer. If neutrality is caused by indifference, cowardice, or a biased or self-serving attitude, it becomes a morally wrong choice rather than a manifestation of deep understanding of the causes and consequences of the dispute (cf. Pro. 24:11–12; Mt. 12:30; Jas. 4:17; Rev. 3:15–16).

42. Keeping such situations in mind, Pope Pius XII emphasized in his 1948 Christmas message that in the case of unjust aggression, “the solidarity of the family of nations forbids others to behave as mere spectators, by showing impassive neutrality”, and added that it was impossible to measure the damage “already done in the past by such indifference… to wars of aggression” and that such a position “has only reassured and emboldened the authors and instigators of aggression” [24].

43. In times of war neutrality needs to be approached with a keen understanding of its ethical and moral aspects. There may be a legitimate desire to prevent further bloodshed or to facilitate a diplomatic resolution of the conflict. Neutrality should not be extended to the point, however, where it becomes a passive approval of injustice and crimes, as there is a moral imperative to oppose unjust aggression against any country and to defend the values upon which the international community is based. The lessons of history, as emphasized by Pope Pius XII, are a strong reminder that indifference to acts of aggression can have far-reaching consequences. Nations are obliged to assess the limits of their political neutrality, which cannot become moral; otherwise it will turn into a betrayal of fundamental values and principles. At such critical moments, the international community must rise above mere impartiality and actively work for justice, peace, and the preservation of human dignity.

44. Russian aggression against Ukraine is not a struggle for disputed territory: it is an attack on international law and a crime against peace. The current war in Europe is a zero-sum conflict of identities, as Ukrainians seek to preserve their independence as a state and the right simply to be Ukrainians, while Russians seek to deprive Ukrainians of their right to exist as such and revive their empire. The atrocities of the Russian army against civilians, which the whole world is watching almost live, are a brutal outrage on human dignity and a crime of genocide. Maintaining a performative neutrality in such a situation is a betrayal of the values of respect for international law, justice, and human dignity. This is a position based on interests, not principles.

45. An artificial and formalistic neutrality encourages many to treat both warring parties symmetrically, as politically and morally equal, while ignoring the real causes of this war and its circumstances. Therefore, such neutrality is destined for ethical defeat. This defeat is also determined by the fact that the Russian-Ukrainian war is radically different from traditional military conflicts. In this situation it is impossible to maintain moral neutrality; instead, one must make a choice in favor of values: “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt. 6:24).

46. Of course, there are countries in the world that, due to a particular historical trajectory or the specifics of their role in the international community, declare permanent neutrality in the event of any armed conflict and therefore consistently adhere to the principles to which this status obliges them. Among such states the Holy See occupies a special place, whose positive neutrality means that it does not limit itself to observation but seeks to facilitate dialogue between the parties of the conflict. In the Apostolic See’s service of the cause of peace and international cooperation, it is necessary to distinguish between two types of neutrality: diplomatic and moral. In no case, however, do we see moral neutrality in the actions of the Holy See. In the case of Russia’s unjust aggression against our Homeland, for example, it clearly distinguishes between the aggressor and the victim of its attack and always supports the one who became this victim — the Ukrainian people.

47. At the same time, the millennial tradition of the Bishop of Rome’s role as the highest arbiter of the Christian world, that is, his position “above the parties” at war, has enabled and still enables the Vatican to play an important, sometimes decisive role in resolving many conflict situations around the world, as well as to help establish channels for the exchange of prisoners and relieve the suffering of civilians.

48. The significance of this mediation cannot be overestimated in the context of Russia’s current aggression against Ukraine, as many mothers and wives gratefully recall the Holy Father’s role in the release of captured soldiers or deported children. Such facts become especially eloquent when the Bishop of Rome’s diplomatic mediation efforts are harmoniously combined with the language of faith, which dares to call evil evil, thus healing human wounds with this word of truth, as, for example, on January 8, 2024, during a meeting of Pope Francis with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. At that time the Pope reminded the participants that it was Russia which had unleashed an aggressive war against Ukraine and emphasized that war crimes require an appropriate response from the international community [25].

VI. The Goal of Legitimate Defense Is a Just Peace

49. In this message to all people of goodwill, we want to emphasize that it is our Christian and civic duty to defend the lives of our neighbors, above all children, women, and the elderly, as courageously and radically as possible — by taking up arms and willingly laying down our own lives, as Jesus taught: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13). We are in a situation where we must defend people from those behaving inhumanly.

50. In Christian ethics a just peace means more than simply victory over aggression. The ethics of just war, which determines the Christian understanding of war and peace, was formed in the Middle Ages when the Church used as the concept of justice the constant desire to give everyone his or her due. This approach became the basis of modern international law, in which it indicates the right of nations and peoples to independence. The roots of an understanding of justice can also be found in the Bible — here it means all-embracing right relationships, which are expressed by the Hebrew term “tzadik” and the Greek term “dikaiosyne”. Such justice is consistent with rights and the law, but broader than that, as it also includes virtues such as giving and mercy. It reaches its climax in God’s reconciliation of the world to himself through the cross and resurrection, which the apostle Paul calls the justice of God (cf. Rm. 3:21–26; 2 Th. 1:6).

51. 51. Ukrainians, of course, want the war to end as soon as possible and long-awaited peace to come. Saints Augustine and Thomas Aquinas believed that the goal of a just war is a just peace. Pope St. Paul VI reiterated this thesis on the Day of Peace in 1972 [26]. The end of war is not true peace, however, if it means the end of Ukraine.

52. The purpose of legitimate defense of one’s own people and statehood is to ensure a just peace for all parties, so that revenge, conquest, economic gain, and subjugation are unacceptable. A just peace can be neither the “appeasement” of the aggressor nor a so-called “minimal peace” that implies recognition of the territories occupied by the aggressor. A just peace must be long-lasting and stable, with the restoration of the principles of international law. It involves not only the aggressor’s defeat and restoration Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but also includes measures aimed at restoring proper relations between Ukraine and Russia as well as healing the wounds caused by war: the disclosure of truth and identification of criminal actors, international criminal courts, reparations, political apologies and forgiveness, memorials, new constitutions, and local reconciliation forums.

53. In order to achieve a just peace in Ukraine, Christian churches, international organizations, and political institutions must be able to use very clear language to condemn Russia’s military aggression and genocidal acts against Ukraine, and to ensure that war criminals are prosecuted. Unpunished evil continues to cause still more damage.

54. The numerous victims that Russia has created in Ukraine throughout history, particularly in the 20th century, as well as after the full-scale invasion of February 24, 2022, should be the focus of the international community’s attention, in order adequately to assess these ongoing atrocities.

55. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has forced the world to live through new experiences and traumas similar to those that humanity experienced during World War II. The terrible consequences of this Russian invasion need to be addressed now and borne in mind when working to strengthen the security architecture of Ukraine and the world. This global and sustainable security architecture should be based on the principles of a just peace; and the efforts of states, international organizations, and Christian churches should be directed to this end.

Conclusion

56. There is “a time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them”, said Ecclesiastes (Eccl. 3:5), and our time confirms this. The current regime in Russia has set out to dismantle the until recently established international security structure, redraw the world order, and establish its own rules. The international institutions and mechanisms that supported this order are now showing their powerlessness before the attack of those who would destroy it.

57. All this was not only a shock to the international community, but also a challenge to the Church of Christ. After all, her teachings, which on the initiative of Europe’s Christian democrats set the paradigm for a half-century’s development of peaceful civilization, have to a significant degree been accommodated to the conventional rules. Today we need to remember that the Gospel is not so much a collection of postulates from which Christian doctrine is built, as God’s Word that encourages us ever to renew our spirit and rethink the realities of this world.

58. The same Ecclesiastes reminds us: “[There is] a time to be silent, and a time to speak” (cf. Eccl. 3:7). So, there is a time when the Church speaks with a pastoral voice, fulfilling the commandment of the Lord: “Feed my sheep” (Jn. 21:16–17). There is a time when the Church speaks with a teacher’s voice, giving instruction: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:20). And there is a time when the Church must speak with her prophetic voice, giving downtrodden people a ray of hope concerning how to overcome evil: “They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death” (Rev. 12:11). We Christians must pray much that the prophetic voice of Christ’s Church become convincing.

59. Ukraine has become a center of global change and is facing terrible challenges today. The evil is real — we have seen its face. The voices of the innocently murdered, ruthlessly tortured, brutally raped, and forcibly deported are calling out to the world’s conscience. Ukrainians do not question the importance of soberly weighing threats and carefully calibrating political steps. It is equally important, however, to maintain the ability to look at current events through the eyes of the victim.

60. The world has failed to stop the Moscow tyrant and warn him that “sin lies in wait at the door: its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it” (Gen. 4:7). Today, when genocide is being streamed online, it is due time to tell this tyrant openly that he has brought a curse from Heaven upon himself, dooming himself to “become a constant wanderer on the earth” (cf. Gen. 4:12).

61. How should Christians around the world act now? First of all, we need to realize the global nature of the current threat and to affirm and develop the power of just international law. The belief of some parts the world community that this war is a purely local conflict between two nations and therefore, after reconciling them, it will be possible to return to the usual comfort, is erroneous. Today all the foundations of human civilization are under threat.

62. For many years Russia has been using so-called hybrid warfare as a tool to achieve its imperial, anti-human goals, which includes the creation of economic dependence in individual countries, information warfare through the spread of propaganda and fakes, bribing the heads of international organizations and politicians, the intimidation and killing of its own dissident citizens who managed to leave for other countries, and so on. Russia’s goal is to instigate threats and chaos in order then to annex other countries’ territories or offer them its “help” so as to gain control over them. Such an insidious and destructive policy requires swift recognition by the international community as global threats and a clear moral assessment by the Church.

63. By launching a hybrid war against Ukraine, Russia has in fact challenged the entire civilized world. Russia has disrupted it so much that many people have ceased to distinguish truth and deception, and thus good and evil. Before our eyes a terrible substitution takes place: what is evil is cloaked in the guise of good, and what is good is branded as if of hell. In such a distorted world, it will be impossible to avoid or stop wars. Blurred verbal declarations and vague political language will be powerless, and diplomatic neutrality without clear values and guidelines will gradually turn into moral relativism or even weakness. This already prevents many politicians in the civilized world from recognizing Russian troops’ atrocities in Ukraine as genocide because it would then demand their intervention. At present, many Christians who belong to the Western world’s postmodern generation simply do not see the genocide of the Ukrainian people nor hear the victims’ cries; yet, in order not to lose face, they continue to express their worry and deep concern.

64. 64. All of this can be overcome only by a clear and distinct proclamation of the Truth of the Gospel. If modern humanity — the humanity of the “post-truth era” — does not recognize objective truth, it will gradually turn into a “post-justice world”. If it does not develop and establish social justice upon the basilar principles of human dignity, the sanctity and inviolability of human life, the common good, and solidarity, humanity will end up in societies where the concept of law is replaced by the concept of interests, be they of particular individuals or maleficent groups. In such societies the right of the strong prevails over the rule of law, the law is not the same for everyone, and the foundations of international law and the inviolability of state sovereignty fall victim to contemporary world powers’ geopolitical and economic interests.

65. The voice of eternal Gospel Truth and its implementation in social and international relations has its own unique history in the tradition of the Kyivan Church and our millennial tradition of state-building. This eternal Truth and Justice is reflected in our Holy Sophia church, which represents the Divine Wisdom that is the unchanging matrix of the development of the Ukrainian people and our native state. It is precisely formulated as a guideline for social and international relations in our millennial past’s slogan, “Do not let the powerful destroy a man!” from the immortal “Teaching to Children” by Prince Volodymyr Monomakh of Kyiv (1053–1125). “Do not let the powerful destroy a man!” is the Kyivan Church’s call to the conscience of contemporary Christians as well as her vision for the development of the Church’s social teaching on justice and peace in the modern world. “Do not let the powerful destroy a man!” is suffering Ukraine’s call to the international community to proclaim the objective values of just social structures and international cooperation.

66. During the madness of World War II, the righteous Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky called at archeparchial synods for a new understanding of God’s commandments as a way to implement the life-giving principles of the truth of God’s law in building a just society. For only by restoring the legislative force of the Decalogue can we expect the restoration of God’s peace. Without this, the next threat facing humanity may be the last. His call is especially relevant in the context of Russian aggression today.

67. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The Lord wants His disciples now to be like they were at the beginning of Christianity: courageous in their faithfulness to the truth, so as not to turn a blind eye to terrible injustice while seeking economic gain and peace of mind. The life of Jesus — His words and deeds — are an example and a blessed light that we may understand what it is to be true human beings, created in the image and likeness of God and carrying the peacemaking power of the Holy Spirit. These words and deeds testify to His wise and just rule in the world. His example is so pure and clear that it cannot be replaced by any opportunistic diplomacy or politics that would disregard the dignity and rights of individuals and each nation.

The blessing of the Lord be upon you!

On behalf of the Synod of Bishops
of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
in Ukraine

† SVIATOSLAV

Given in Kyiv,
at the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ,
on the day of the Repose of our Holy Father Constantine, philosopher,
named Cyril among the monks, teacher of the Slavs;
of our Holy and Venerable Father Auxentius;
of the Holy and Venerable Maron, hermit and miracle worker,
February 14, 2024

[1] Pastoral Letter, “To the Ukrainian Youth,” Lviv, 1932.

[2] Cf. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, 1 a 2 ae, q. 92, art. 1, ob. 4; q. 105, art. 1; 2 a 2 ae, q. 50, art. 1, ob. 2; De regimine principum, lib. 1, cap. 1; lib. 3, cap. 7.

[3] A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Russkii mir) Teaching, March 13, 2022.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Kyiv, 10 of January 2024

[6] Gaudium et spes, 78.

[7] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2306.

[8] Christ is our Pascha, 989.

[9] Letter 138: To Marcellinus, 15.

[10] Cf. Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 503.

[11] Sermon at Holy Mass, Drogheda, September 29, 1979, 8.

[12] Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the Celebration of the Day of Peace, January 1, 1981, 8.

[13] Gaudium et spes, 80.

[14] Pastoral Message to the Clergy and Faithful “On Repentance and Regular Holy Communion”, Lviv, February 5, 1939.

[15] Gaudium et spes, 79.

[16] Cf. Art. 2, n. 3 and 4.

[17] Cf. Art. 5, 1.

[18] Cf. Art. 5.

[19] Cf. Encyclical on the Establishment of Universal Peace in Truth, Pacem in terris, April 11, 1963.

[20] Message of His Holiness Pope Paul VI for the Observance of a Day of Peace, January 1, 1968.

[21] Christ — Our Pascha, 990.

[22] CСС, 2309.

[23] Fratelli Tutti, 258.

[24] Radio Message of His Holiness Pius XII to the Whole World on the Occasion of Christmas, December 24, 1948.

[25] Cf. Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, Vatican City, January 8, 2024.

[26] Cf. Message of His Holiness Pope Paul VI for the Celebration of the Day of Peace, “If You Want Peace, Work for Justice,” January 1, 1972.

See also