Kharkiv is one of the Ukrainian cities currently most under fire. On Tuesday a missile struck the house of the Roman Catholic bishop, Pavlo Honcharuk, tearing a hole in the roof, although no-one was injured. “So now we too have received one of these ‘presents’,” says the bishop in a short videoclip which he sent to the international pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Despite the damage, work in the house carries on unhindered: women in the kitchen are preparing hot meals which are taken to two nearby underground stations in which hundreds of people are sheltering.
Catholic and Orthodox bishops visit the injured
According to a message from the Diocese of Kharkiv-Saporischschja, Mons. Honcharuk found refuge from the growing attacks in a bunker, along with about 40 other people, including Bishop Mytrofan, from the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Together, these two brother bishops have been visiting the injured in hospital and taking part in food distributions, an ecumenical co-operation made possible by the war.
In the meantime, Bishop Honcharuk speaks of great damage and many deaths in other parts of the city. The picture of the missile attack on Freedom Square in central Kharkiv went around the world. A government building there was destroyed, and many people are thought to have been killed.
Residential buildings heavily damaged
The Russian military has claimed repeatedly that no civilian targets in Ukraine would be attacked. Yet a second videoclip sent to ACN shows badly damaged apartment blocks which, according to the bishop, lie opposite a destroyed factory. “Those were flats. All the windows were blown out. Many people were killed. The overhead cables of a bus route were destroyed,” he says, shocked. Several burnt-out cars and craters caused by the explosions are visible in the streets. A solitary old man drags himself along the road and the bishop warns him to be careful. In the clip you can also see Bishop Honcharuk looking into a car: “There was shooting here; there is blood here.”
The situation in Kharkiv and in other places continues to become more critical. In view of the escalating crisis, ACN is supporting priests and religious in Ukraine, so that they can continue their pastoral and charitable work.
The international pontifical foundation is providing an emergency package of one million euros for four Greek Catholic Exarchates and the two Latin dioceses in eastern Ukraine which cover Kharkiv, Donetsk, Saporischschja, Odessa and Crimea. According to the ACN Executive President, Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, the money will go to priests and religious who work across the country in parishes, with refugees, in orphanages and in homes for the elderly. The foundation is also asking for prayers for peace in Ukraine.