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Ukraine celebrates Easter in the shadow of war

Ukrainian Greek Catholics and others are celebrating Easter Sunday amid reports of heavy fighting as Russian troops are further advancing in Eastern Ukraine. Sunday marks the third Easter in Ukraine since Russia invaded the nation in February 2022.

By Stefan J. Bos 

Worshipers in churches observing Easter according to the Julian calendar gather across Ukraine to celebrate Christ’s resurrection amid destruction and death.

As the war against Russia enters its third year, people put their trust in the hope of the Gospel, including in Kyiv, where Orthodox believers were seen flocking to St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian soldiers received blessings before Easter, when many will be fighting on battlefields against advancing Russian troops.

Listen to Stefan Bos’ report

Praying for peace

St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral in Kyiv, many received blessings and prayed for peace after hundreds of thousands of people were killed and injured in the ongoing war.

Their sentiments are shared by the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, who also celebrate Easter this Sunday.

The head of Ukraine’s five million-strong Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, says that “each day probably 200 Ukrainians are killed. When a young widow is crying on the tomb of her husband killed in the front line in this situation, where is God? And that question is a very important and deep religious question,” he said.

Seeing Christ in the wounds of the people

“But God is with us,” he noticed. “Jesus Christ today is [in a way] the crucified body of Ukraine. And He is with the wounds of the simple people,” the archbishop stressed.     

And the church leader makes clear that while Easter celebrates the resurrection of Christ from death, the same Lord understands the suffering of people in war. “Very often when I am visiting hospitals, and I see those young soldiers, young civilians with amputations – we have 1,500 amputations right now in Ukraine – I had the feeling: ‘Lord, those wounds are yours.’ 

And there were more injuries as Ukraine marked its third Easter at war, with Russia launching a barrage of drones in Ukraine’s east, wounding more than a dozen people.

A priest blesses soldiers after Divine Liturgy near the front lines

A priest blesses soldiers after Divine Liturgy near the front lines

It also claimed that its troops had taken control of the village of Ocheretyne, the scene of heavy fighting.

Ukraine’s air force said that Russia had launched 24 Shahed drones overnight, of which 23 were shot down.

But in Kyiv, people expressed hope and prayed that the fighting would stop and peace would return to this wartorn, shaken nation.

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