The pope’s confidant for charity on his way to Ukraine for a fourth trip

KRAKOW – Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal chaplain, is visiting Ukraine for the fourth time since the start of the war as a sign of Pope Francis’ closeness to the Ukrainian people.

“For more than 200 days, the Ukrainian nation has suffered the reality of war. I’m just going to be with them,” the cardinal said. Node before leaving on Thursday.

The chaplain’s role is to lead the pontiff’s charitable efforts, and Krajewski has been specifically tasked with leading Francis’ humanitarian efforts for Ukraine.

The Polish cardinal usually delivers his aid by car and is known to be a long-distance driver: this current trip will take him to Vinnytsia and Odessa. He hopes to get as far as Kharkiv, which has been constantly bombarded by Russian army artillery.

Although Francis recently confirmed that he would not be able to travel to Ukraine before this month’s papal trip to Kazakhstan, Krajewski stressed that his visit “is not a replacement trip.”

“This is yet another proximity trip. The Holy Father himself could not go to the combat zone in eastern Ukraine, no leader does, but I can go there as his envoy,” he said. he declares. Node.

In addition to the pope’s closeness to the Ukrainian people, Krajewski also brings supplies.

“I drive a van that I will leave in the diocese of Kharkiv- Zaporizhnia. The van is full of papal rosaries to be distributed throughout Ukraine in different dioceses.

Krajewski will also meet with all sixteen Latin Rite bishops of Ukraine at a meeting where he intends to express his support and ask questions about the needs of particular regions.

“There is no point in bringing something that no one needs,” the cardinal said. “I will listen to needs and provide. I already know that in a diocese you need wood stoves. We will buy them for each church and diocesan building.

Ukrainian towns are bracing for a harsh winter, the one local bishops expect will be the harshest since World War II. Shortages and blockages in the distribution of natural gas, electricity and water are expected.

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Friday marks exactly six months since the papal chaplain’s first trip to Ukraine. Two ambulances were driven there personally by Krajewski at the start of the war. The cardinal also spent Holy Week and Easter in the country.

Photos of the papal chaplain praying at Bucha’s mass graves went viral in April. It was a moment which he himself described as “one of the most moving moments of my ministry – I remember well that at one point the ground started to move and the locals told me : ‘There are more tombs below than we are just discovering.'”

A statement from the Vatican on Friday described Krajewski’s current journey as a “silent and thoroughly evangelical journey.”

“I’m going as if we were going to visit a loved one in the hospital,” the cardinal said. Node.

Krajewski plans to stay in Ukraine for several weeks, in solidarity with the Catholic clergy – many of whom were born abroad – who have remained in the country.

“Out of 250 priests, one left Ukraine. Almost 100% stayed and they need our support. And how many religious remained,” the cardinal noted, pointing to the Odessa nuns he plans to meet. “They were gone for a while, but as soon as it was safe to get back they did and have been heroes of charity ever since.”

The current trip comes as Ukraine carries out offensives in the Kherson and Kharkiv regions, gaining territory from the Russian military.

However, Krajewski doesn’t seem to mind the danger.

“As cardinals, we pledge to act in the name of the Holy Father – even to the point of shedding our own blood,” he said. “Our life does not depend on a lone ball, but on God and God alone.”

He added that he was determined to reach eastern Ukraine.

“In a war zone, it doesn’t matter whether you have a diplomatic passport or not. Everyone is at risk,” he said.

“And that’s the goal: to show the people of Ukraine – we are with you, we understand you, we will get through this together.”

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Barry F. Howard