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I saw great suffering and great faith

 I saw great suffering and  great faith   ING-011
18 March 2022

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner, has expressed hopes that the sun will rise once again in Ukraine. Speaking by telephone as he was leaving Ukraine, he spoke about his mission of Gospel charity, a journey made of sharing and hope, despite the sound of air raid sirens and the tried faces of so many women fleeing with children in their arms.

Your Eminence, you are about to conclude your journey. How would you sum up your mission?

I went to Ukraine to support our brothers and sisters, to bring the Holy Father’s blessing, to be close to them, to pray with them. So with the various religious leaders, we met, we spent time together... And then [I went to Ukraine] also to thank the people of good will who are offering their homes to refugees, the many volunteers in Ukraine and also the many donors because truly, large trucks filled with aid supplies are constantly heading towards Kyiv, stopping more or less 100 kilometres away. It has been a journey of faith, a Gospel journey, an entirely religious missionary journey.

You also said it was a journey expressing concrete closeness to the people, and let us remember that Pope Francis made a contribution to the trucks bringing aid to Kyiv...

Yes, there were many donations, wherever we went there were people who contributed, even in a small way. Of course, the trip was a very practical support, but above all, it was important to be with them, with the people. The mayors and prefects of the area also came with us, despite the air raid sirens warning them to take cover. We prayed and talked about the near future. There is great hope for the future but the weapons must be stopped and the sun must finally rise over Ukraine as well.

Is there an image that particularly moved you during this trip, perhaps a person or an encounter?

The images in my mind ... It is always the women; even today I saw many women with children going towards the border. You can see that people are very tired, the people are very tried from so many days of travel. But on the other hand, you experience this incredible welcome and the help. So I have to say that besides the suffering, there is also great hope and love.

Is there a word or phrase that could characterize this journey? You spoke of the “weapons of faith” and mentioned several times the need to silence the real weapons in order to make those of peace, prayer and unity resound. Was this the spirit?

Of course! I brought many rosary beads that I was also able to give to the soldiers, to the people who were leaving the country, who were going towards the Polish border. We also prayed a lot. We put ourselves in prayer, anywhere. Then I would always see tears when people would say, “Here, these rosaries are from the Holy Father who is near and prays for you”.

What will be the first thing you will tell Pope Francis?

I don’t know yet. I have to say that each day has been very different; today, we also woke up with sirens warning us to seek shelter immediately. So on the one hand, perhaps the joy of these encounters prevails; on the other, the sadness of the people who live in constant fear. I am leaving this country greatly and personally inspired, because I have met people with great faith, belonging to all faiths. This too offers hope, hope for unity.

By Benedetta Capelli