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Bartholomew: The virtuous Ukrainian people did not attack anyone, but were forced to defend their land

Greeting of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for Ukrainian Independence Day.

History has bound Ukraine and the Ecumenical Patriarchate since the end of the tenth century, when the Holy Prince Vladimir, like “a merchant in search of fine pearls,” sent emissaries to Constantinople, where he found Christ, the priceless pearl. Since then, the Mother Church of Constantinople has always been at your side, sharing your joys and sorrows.

By the grace of God, during these days last year, we had the honour to partake in the Independence Day celebrations in Kyiv during our first Patriarchal Visit to your hospitable country after the Holy and Great Church of Christ granted the Tomos of Autocephaly to your Church.

Last year was a time of celebration and rejoicing. But unfortunately, when you were looking for good, evil came; when you waited for light, darkness came, days of affliction came to meet you (cf. Job 30:26-27).

With great sadness and horror, last February, we learned of the unjustified aggression against your country by the Russian Federation, a gross violation of international law. Since then, we have been anxiously following the war’s progression and its political, economic, sociological, and ecological consequences.

It is our conviction that no Church or Christian can justify or support any form of aggression by using religious language. Called to be peacemakers, genuine Christians must support all initiatives to prevent conflict via dialogue, which fosters understanding and reconciliation.

Constantly lifting our prayers to the Mother of God to grant justice and peace to Ukraine, we petition our Lord that no one be filled with anguish for their families. Furthermore, we beseech the Almighty that their heroic sons and daughters will not die defending their native land.

The virtuous Ukrainian people did not attack anyone, but were forced to defend their land and homes. May the All-Merciful Lord strengthen all of you to endure these many distresses and bear this heavy cross. Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, said: “Where I am, there My servant will be also.” (John 12:26). You must know that God is always with you, that this evil and ungodly war will end; evil will never overcome good; darkness will never overcome light. After suffering and torment, the light of Christ will shine, and peace will reign in Ukraine.

In March, we visited Ukrainian refugees in Poland in a spirit of solidarity to bring them solace and hope, trying to awaken the international community’s conscience to this tragedy that is taking place in Europe.

Today, with much paternal love, we console you and bestow on you all – civil and ecclesiastical authorities, the armed forces, selfless medical professionals, educators, refugees throughout the world, all Ukrainian citizens and everyone of goodwill – our Patriarchal blessing, wishing you all that “the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways and may be with you all” (2 Thess. 3:16).”