Fr Vyacheslav Grynevych, Secretary General of Caritas Spes-Ukraine, met with the Holy Father on Tuesday afternoon, 21 February, in a private audience at the Casa Santa Marta residence.
The Ukrainian priest gave the Pope a cross made from the shards of glass from the windows of houses destroyed by Russian bombing.
Fr Grynevych described his meeting with Pope Francis as a really good moment to present the work the local Caritas and Caritas Internationalis are doing in war-torn Ukraine. “We as church workers are also victims of the war. We have to fight not only for our lives, but also for our spirituality”. He also affirmed that the Pope is with them in prayer, and that the Holy Father “urged us as Caritas to continue our work”.
The shards of glass that form the cross show “not only the destroyed houses that we are trying to rebuild, but they also show our hearts, what we have inside”, the Ukrainain priest said. In the centre of the cross is the image of a butterfly, which is a sign of hope.
Fr Grynevych also gave the Pope the text of a Stations of the Cross that Caritas Spes-Ukrainian workers prepared, drawing upon their experience of the war.
The meditations of these Stations “are true stories, stories of our loved ones and friends”, the priest explained. The Station where Jesus meets his mother is a reminder of the mothers of soldiers in Ukraine who wait for their sons to come back from the war. Some do not return, and the mother is informed of her son’s death. Another Station describes how children feel during the bombings, when they find it impossible to sleep. Then there is a meditation on the many graves in “Ukraine with the bodies of nameless people; no one knows who they are, but for us these graves are holy places”.
For people in Ukraine, the priest explains, this international solidarity is very important, as is a united response to the humanitarian needs caused by the war. “I believe it’s easier to go forward when you know you’re not alone, and for us this is a very important sign. We’re on the front line and we always experience the risk of being attacked, but we feel united with all the other Caritas workers in Italy and in other countries who are working with Ukrainian refugees: we are all going through the same experience”, he continued, referring to themselves as soldiers, but “soldiers in the social war”.