Cardinal Dolan’s words of comfort and support were a bright spot for the Ukrainian refugees he met on his whirlwind visit this past week to war-ravaged Ukraine and the bordering nations of Poland and Slovakia.
The cardinal led a delegation of Church officials who are supporting relief efforts, including several from the Catholic Near East Welfare Agency (CNEWA), a New York-based charitable organization of which he is chairman.
CNEWA raises funds and offers other support to assist the Church in eastern Europe, the Middle East and beyond, and has so far provided some $2 million in relief funds to aid the Ukraine refugees, believed to number more than 5 million sheltering in at least six nations of Eastern Europe.
The trip by Cardinal Dolan, one of the best-known religious leaders in the world, was meant in part to raise the profile of the refugee crisis and to demonstrate solidarity to the priests, nuns, religious and Catholic laypeople who have worked tirelessly to assist them since the start of the fighting.
More than anything, though, the visit was a deeply personal and pastoral gesture, a sincere effort to reassure the Ukrainian families who fled the Russian army’s unprovoked attack on their homeland that the Catholic Church stands with them in their time of need.
“We want to do anything we can to show solidarity with these people, to let them know that we are with them,” the cardinal said, on returning to Poland after his brief visit to Ukraine.
During his time in Poland and Slovakia, he visited parishes that have welcomed hundreds of refugees as part of their family; celebrated Mass in the archbishop’s residence in Krakow, the archdiocese that nurtured the vocation of Pope St. John Paul II; visited a health care center operated by the Order of Malta and a center operated by Caritas, the Vatican-affiliated international charity, that distributes hot meals.
The most touching part of the trip, though, was the heartfelt empathy the cardinal exuded in his many encounters with the traumatized women and children forced to leave husbands, fathers and sons behind to fight the war.
He also passed on, via a post on Twitter, what he heard “again and again” from the Ukrainians he met along the way: “Tell the folks of the United States how grateful we are for their help.”
We’re glad to hear that, and are glad to do what we can to help. The situation in that part of the world is unpredictable and dangerous, and we supported the cardinal with our prayers throughout his time there.
In Slovakia, after participating in a Mass attended by numerous refugee families, the cardinal said, “I'm so proud of what the Church is doing here, and so grateful for the faith, hope, and love of the Ukrainian refugees.”
We share that gratitude and pride, and continue to pray for an end to the conflict.
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