Daily life in Borodyanka, near Kiev (Ansa-Zumapress photo)

Trip to Kiev, Monsignor Santoro's letter

The Archbishop of Taranto for three days in Ukraine to "share the pain and suffering of a people" and pray for peace. Here is his account.
Filippo Santoro*

Dear friends, from April 25 to 28 I participated in a peace mission to Kiev in Ukraine, promoted by a lay association, "Neverland," which insistently asked me to guide them on this trip. Out of friendship, and because I wished to share their cause, I went. The objective was to pose a gesture to share the pain and suffering of the Ukrainian people by bringing them a gift: a bas-relief depicting St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of Kiev, and defender of good against evil, which in this case is war.

This gift was given to the Patriarch of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Svjtoslav Ševčuk, who thanked us for remembering the suffering of the Ukrainian people, and for sharing their pain in this terrible war. He was grateful because we went to Kiev to take a gift and to pray for peace, the most important thing that can be done at this time.

The delivery of the bas-relief took place during a liturgy I celebrated with the Auxiliary Bishop of Kiev, because the Patriarch had gone to conduct the funeral services for the Ukrainian soldiers who died in the war. We prayed with the Greek Catholic Bishop and his priests who, with beautiful songs, invoked the Holy Trinity and asked for the intercession of the "arch-strategist" St. Michael the Archangel so that he would defeat the evil of war and good and peace would win.

The presence of the Italian ambassador to Ukraine also gave civil importance to our gesture on behalf of the Ukrainian people. We gave our time and took risks in this delicate mission, but risk is beautiful, as Plato says, when we embark on the adventure of Mystery as builders of peace and solidarity.

St. Michael the Archangel is depicted not only with a sword but also with scales in his hand, a sign of justice. He fights for just peace that respects the Ukrainian people and territory and, in this case, for a worthy end to the conflict, through dialogue and negotiation and not through an arms race.

The association that promoted this trip also plans to take a bas-relief depicting St. Nicholas of Bari to Moscow, who is highly revered by both Ukrainians and Russians. With all the commitments I have, I think it is difficult for me to go, but let us also put this in the Lord's hands.

The two friends who were with me during the long hours of the car ride, although not practicing Catholics, accompanied me in reciting the lauds psalms; struck by the beauty of the prayer, they wanted to pray with me in the following days. They were amazed that it was so beautiful to begin the day even under difficult circumstances by placing our whole lives in the Lord's hands, in addition to our commitment to peace.

As soon as we left Kiev, there were new bombings and sirens sounded. Fortunately, the Ukrainian anti-aircraft neutralized the bombs dropped. We had been warned on the first day in our hotel that, upon hearing the sirens, we were to go down to the basement to defend ourselves from possible shelling. During our stay, thank God, no bombs fell in our path. The prayers of so many who were following us were heard. We did, however, see the pain and drama of those who have lost so many loved ones and see their lives cruelly threatened every day.

*Metropolitan Archbishop of Taranto and Special Delegate of the Pope for the Memores Domini