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Archbishop of Lviv: We fight not with rifles but with the Rosary

“What gives me strength, hope, and faith is that I see that Divine Providence does not abandon us and there is so much faith in people,” says Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki in an interview with Vatican News. The Latin Metropolitan of Lviv stressed that in this dark time of war all of Ukraine is wrapped in a chain of prayer. “We are God’s fighters, not with the rifle, but with the rosary. Not on the battlefield, but on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament.”

Below is an English translation of Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki’s interview with Beata Zajączkowska of Vatican News.

Vatican News: Even in Lviv the sirens continue to sound and the city is being bombed. What reflection are your reflections on the second anniversary of the large-scale war?

Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki: Among the many words recorded on the pages of the Gospels, I was struck by a short statement of the Lord Jesus: “There is no good tree that bears bad fruit, nor bad tree that bears good fruit. For every tree is known by its fruit.”

These words are the voice of truth for us to judge the conduct of people who, by following evil, become bitter fruits for others. And even though they say they want to defend and liberate, we see that they do not. Instead of peace, they generate war. Instead of love, they generate hatred. Instead of tranquility, they generate fear. This is their fruit, bitter and sour.

Therefore without a doubt, it can be said that there is nothing good in them. For they are bad trees and their fruit is the guilt of Cain. It pains us that a few decades after the end of World War II, we again have to defend our freedom and reflect on how human beings are unable or cannot remember the horrors that war had left behind. Instead, we remember perfectly well – most of us only from history, but there are people among us who remember that period from personal experience.

Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, Latin Archbishop of Lviv
Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki, Latin Archbishop of Lviv

Q: Unfortunately, the war has become your personal experience. What is daily life like?

Unfortunately, military activities continue. Missiles and drones rain down on people and cities. Soldiers and innocent people are killed. Many people are injured, deprived of their homes and their livelihoods, lacking work.

All this leads to fear, anxiety, uncertainty. Many children, adults, even priests fall into despair, depression, and mental illness.

In this situation, the Church is concerned to help everyone. We help soldiers fighting through chaplain service; we organize humanitarian aid, food, medicines, and equipment, and even help buy drones. We continue to welcome IDPs [internally displaced persons] and to organize humanitarian aid and send it to war zones. We also provide this help to poor families in our parishes. We organize extensive pastoral work to strengthen faith and hope in them.

Q. At this time how do you help people to have hope and inner strength?

First and foremost, we invite the faithful to pray, encouraged by the words of the Letter of St. James the Apostle, “Whoever among you is in sorrow, pray.”

Undoubtedly, the pain of war has come upon us. That is why the quoted request of the Apostle is a call and a task for us. This is what we can give today to our loved ones and to all of Ukraine. Our prayer must be like incense that always has only one direction, from earth to heaven. It must be the cry of one heart and one spirit.

Pope Francis has also asked us to do so, [saying], “May the prayers and supplications that rise up to heaven today touch the minds and hearts of the world’s leaders, so that they will put dialogue and the good of all above private interests. Please, never again war!”

This is the intention of our prayers, joining the voice of the Holy Father who stands in defense of freedom and peace.

Therefore, in the experience of suffering, our weapon in the struggle for peace is prayer. We are God’s fighters, not with the rifle but with the rosary. Not on the battlefield, but on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament. In this way, we embrace the whole country with a chain of prayers, especially for those on the front lines of this insane war, who are fighting on our behalf and for our sake for the freedom of the homeland.

In this way, we bring a sense of security and solidarity into our lives.

Besides prayer, another dimension that builds hope and inner strength is the good word. Today from all sides comes news that does not bring optimism, but very often horror. That’s why hope and consolation, a good word, and the support of the spirit, flow from us. The words of the Lord Jesus, “Bear one another’s burdens,” become the task with which we must go to one another.

And here is the test for a works-based attitude of love. We must find ourselves in this reality. Pope Francis told us, “The one who is merciful is the one who also knows how to empathize with the problems of others,” and, “Let works of charity not be a means of feeling better, but of participating in the sufferings of others, even at the cost of exposing oneself and inconveniencing oneself.”

In these difficult times, this is the attitude we encourage and try to have so that people see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven.

Destruction caused by a missile strike on Lviv
Destruction caused by a missile strike on Lviv

What fruits have come from the act of entrustment of Russia and Ukraine to the Mother of God?

Immediately after the act of entrustment of Russia and Ukraine by the Holy Father Francis in the Vatican, as well as in our parishes and dioceses, we saw that on the first Saturday, the Russian army withdrew from Kyiv.

Our Lady of Fatima encouraged prayer, penance, and conversion. We also see this in many faithful in our Church and other rites and denominations. People see that the only salvation is in God, and that only a miracle can save Ukraine.

And these are the fruits of reliance on the Mother of God. Despite this difficult situation, people do not lose hope. They still have a lot of strength and optimism. They know how to have great solidarity and be very supportive of each other.

In all this, they see the necessity of prayer and the action of God’s grace. Soldiers often talk about the power of prayer they experience and are grateful to all those who pray for them.

Where does one find hope in this dark time?

What gives me strength, hope, and faith is seeing that Divine Providence does not abandon us and that there is so much faith in people.

A soldier shared what happened to him at the front. He said that during the fighting they ran out of ammunition and they knew it was over. They could not get out of the trenches because it would be instant death. So after a while, they started to salute each other and saw Russian soldiers approaching them. One of the soldiers, who knew that in those days there was going to be a funeral for his uncle, who had also died in the war – and I was doing the funeral for this uncle – said, “Lord God, do something, because my family will not survive two funerals.” The soldier related that after a while the Russians stopped, turned around, and went back. For him and for us it is a tangible miracle, a sign of God’s intervention.

Another example. The brother of one of my priests works as a medic at the front and once confided to his brother, “You know that I am not a believer, but I know that I am still alive only because of your prayers and those of your colleagues.”

Does prayer become a strength?

At the particularly difficult time Ukraine finds itself in, it falls to us to keep vigil before the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today, when war has become a reality, we need to embrace the Cross even more and remain attached to this sign of love and salvation, a sign of the victory of life over death, of love over hatred, of truth over lies, of humility over selfishness. At this difficult time, Ukraine also needs solidarity and good hearts to continue.

Despite shelling, a woman prays in the basement of a Church in Ukraine
Despite shelling, a woman prays in the basement of a Church in Ukraine

How important is it to continue to stand in solidarity with the suffering Ukraine?

Let me at this point express my gratitude to all the priests, consecrated persons, and faithful of the Church in Ukraine and abroad, especially in Poland, for their beautiful attitude of love. This attitude is the living Gospel of good deeds. It was she who showed the world the divine face of love. The attitude of the Poles surprised the Ukrainians and they are aware of what a big heart they showed them, displaying their true humanity and Christianity.

Finally, I would also like to ask not to lose this divine face of Love. We will need it for a long time to come, even when the longed-for peace arrives.

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