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Norway’s Bishop Varden: Ukrainians remain resilient despite brutality of war

The Church in Scandinavia expresses its support for people suffering due to the war in Ukraine, with Bishop Erik Varden praising their ‘great resilience’.

By Devin Watkins & Charlotta Smeds

Two Nordic Church leaders recently made a two-day visit of solidarity to Ukraine, to express the care and concern of the Church in the Scandinavian region.

Bishop Erik Varden, OCSO, prelate of Trondheim in Norway, and Cardinal Anders Arborelius, Archbishop of Stockholm, Sweden, traveled to Kyiv together on behalf of the Bishops’ Conference of the Nordic Countries.

Resilience in face of horrors

Speaking to Vatican News’ Charlotta Smeds, Bishop Varden said the two-day trip seemed “like two weeks” and opened his eyes to the “terrible human cost of war.”

“We went to Ukraine in order to express our solidarity with the Ukrainian people in their fight and in order to express our deep communion with the Ukrainian Catholic community, whom we visited and who received us with an extraordinarily cordial hospitality,” he said.

Cardinal Arborelius and Bishop Varden arrived in Kyiv on the morning after Russia launched around 15 missiles on the Ukrainian capital.

However, the next day “people went about their business, refusing to give in to fear, and that I find it is in itself a great moral victory,” said Bishop Varden.

Depth of faith despite trauma

He said Kyiv and the surrounding areas still bear the marks of extreme cruelty, visible especially towns that have become infamous, including Bucha and Irpin.

“After more than a year living in the war,” said Bishop Varden, “the Cardinal and I were both struck by their great resilience and their refusal to let themselves become brutalised, due to a great depth of faith.”

He added that they heard numerous stories of people’s losses and how the war has traumatized countless children.

“The trauma has left marks not least in the minds and hearts of children who are frightened, who have seen things that children shouldn’t see, who have lost relatives and who have witnessed violence,” said the Bishop. “They will live with this trauma, possibly for the rest of their lives.”

Church’s commitment to charitable aid

The two Nordic bishops were hosted by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, and also met with the Latin-rite Bishop of Kyiv-Zhytomyr, Bishop Vitalii Kryvytskyi.

They witnessed the Catholic Church’s dedication to offering humanitarian aid in the midst of danger, especially through Caritas and the charity of the Greek Catholic Eparchy.

“We found a tremendous and very, very edifying commitment to humanitarian charitable work,” said Bishop Varden.

Signs of solidarity

Asked what Catholics in other parts of the world can do to help people suffering in Ukraine, Bishop Varden urged everyone to pray constantly and to show their solidarity by making donations to Caritas.

“Caritas,” he said, “really reaches the needy and has been a tremendous factor in enabling Ukrainians to get through this year.”

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