A Vatican cardinal has said that he will travel as far as he can in Ukraine to express Pope Francis’ solidarity with the suffering population.
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, said he intended to enter the war-torn country via Poland at the pope’s behest.
Speaking in Poland on March 7, he said: “I bring you greetings and blessings from Pope Francis. The pope is praying and very much experiencing the situation of war. Today you have to think with the Gospel and not with the world. From Lublin, I will go to Ukraine, as far as I can.”
Pope Francis announced in his Angelus address on March 6 that he was sending the 58-year-old Polish cardinal and Cardinal Michael Czerny, the interim prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, to Ukraine.
The pope said: “In these days, two cardinals went to Ukraine, to serve the people, to help … The presence of the two cardinals there is the presence not only of the pope, but of all the Christian people who want to get closer and say: ‘War is madness! Stop, please! Look at this cruelty!’”
In a March 7 note, the Holy See press office described the pope’s decision to send the cardinals as “an extraordinary gesture.”
“Cardinal Krajewski is on his way now (March 7) towards the Polish/Ukraine border, where he will visit refugees and volunteers in shelters and homes,” it said.
“Cardinal Czerny will arrive in Hungary on Tuesday (March 8) to visit some reception centers for the migrants coming from Ukraine.”
“Both are directed to Ukraine and depending on the situation they intend to reach the country in the coming days.”
The apostolic nunciature in Poland said that Cardinal Krajewski arrived in the country on March 6 and would spend the coming days visiting refugee centers at the Polish-Ukrainian border and in Ukraine.
“His visit expresses in a special way the concern and closeness of the Holy Father Francis,” it said in a March 7 statement.
Visiting Lublin, a Polish city 60 miles from Ukraine, Cardinal Krajewski took part in an online conference and prayed with volunteers of the charity Caritas, as well as the curial staff of Lublin archdiocese.
The Holy See press office said that by sending the two cardinals to Ukraine, the pope also wanted to “call attention to the many similar situations throughout the world,” including in Yemen, Syria, and Ethiopia.
It added that Czerny, a 75-year-old Czechoslovakian-born Jesuit, would “raise concern that African and Asian residents in Ukraine, also suffering fear and displacement, be allowed to seek refuge without discrimination.”
“There are also worrisome reports of increasing activities of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants at the borders and in the neighboring countries,” it said.
“Since most of the people fleeing are believers, he will affirm that religious assistance should be offered to everyone, with sensitivity to ecumenical and interfaith differences.”
“Finally, throughout the praiseworthy efforts to offer humanitarian responses and organize humanitarian corridors, there is great need for coordination, good organization, and shared strategy, in order to embrace people’s sufferings and provide effective relief.”