Updates from Ukraine: Minister General continues his visit

The Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Br Massimo Fusarelli, is currently visiting Romania, Ukraine and Poland, accompanied by the Minister Provincial of Assisi, Br Francesco Piloni.

The Minister General is representing his entire Franciscan family, consecrated brothers, friends of the lay family and all volunteers. He is present in the area of conflict and neighbouring countries to listen, welcome and be a sign of solidarity for all those who today are experiencing and suffering the deep wounds of war.

From 10 to 12 April, the Minister General was part of an international delegation of religious leaders for an “Interfaith Pilgrimage of solidarity with the Ukrainian people”. The mission’s ultimate goal – organised by the Peace Department and the Elijah Interfaith Institute – was to demonstrate by example that in times of war and division, we can and must continue to appeal to the highest values of humanity.

The public event, concluding the inter-religious pilgrimage, took place on 12 April in the main theatre of Chernivtsi in Ukraine. Here you can watch the event and listen to the words of the Minister General (58.00 mins).

The Holy Father sent Br Massimo Fusarelli a letter for the occasion. In his message (read the full letter here), the Holy Father reiterates that “this time we are experiencing leaves us dismayed because it is marked by the forces of evil”. At the same time, citing the encyclical Fratelli Tutti, he explains that “the atrocious and painful events we have been witnessing for too many days now confirm that war is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil”. He then launched a new appeal: “May the leaders, especially those who appeal to the sacred principles of religion, listen to the Word of God which says: I have plans for peace and not for disaster”.

From 13 April, the Minister General continued his journey, visiting a house of the friars of the Greek Catholic rite and two houses of the friars of St Michael’s Province. He also met there with refugees and people in need of assistance.

“This morning (12 April), we entered Ukraine very early and already at the border, we saw many people lined up with children, old people, women and men ready to leave their country to seek refuge in the West. When we arrived in the city of Chernivtsi, together with other religious representatives, I met children orphaned by the war and other refugees from the Kyiv area in two centres. Compelling meetings from an emotional point of view and very important. We spoke with the people who accompany the children and the refugees; we listened to stories of war and of interminable journeys to save themselves, structures steeped in pain and a desire for peace”. These are the words of the Minister General, who continues: “Sowing peace even towards those who raise their hand against a defenceless people: this is the message we left to individuals we met and in the inter-religious gathering. May the Almighty and Giver of all good accompany us and bless every effort for peace”.

Following the minister’s words, Br Francesco Piloni, who was present at the visit, said: “Our Ministers reached Ternopil this morning (13 April), where they met the Greek-Catholic fraternity, founded in 1993 and currently made up of twenty friars. After lunch with them, accompanied by the Ukrainian Minister Provincial Br Danyil and Br Cristian, they reached Zbarazh. They met the mayor and visited the Franciscan parish and a school used to welcome refugees. After Mass, they had a moment of prayer for peace with Protestants, Orthodox and Greek Catholics”.

The Minister General will conclude his visit to Poland by meeting the friars and the many refugees in Kalwaria. Br Massimo Fusarelli wanted to undertake this journey in the name of all the friars of the Order to be close to this land and to all the people wounded by the consequences of the conflict.