Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has accustomed us to extend our gaze beyond our limits: hence, his recent call to prayer and charity towards an often forgotten nation, Ukraine, fits his style. Father Volodymyr Voloshyn, pastoral coordinator of the Greek-Catholic Ukrainian Church in Italy thanked him using the following words: “Our whole community is grateful to Francis for drawing the attention of all the faithful who belong to the European Catholic Church to the plight of war, unfortunately forgotten at present.”
Post-Maidan Ukraine (2014) is a bankrupt country facing a full-blown humanitarian crisis: two years after the outbreak of the war in the eastern region of Donbass, clashes continue between government forces and pro-Russian separatist militants. 9,000 people have died to date. There is a patchwork of interests in this complex and detailed scenario and it does not help the country to find its equilibrium and a new identity. The seriousness of this situation was confirmed by Barbara Manzi, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the country. “Today 3 million people need help. The problem here is that it is an invisible crisis.”
The country is currently split into two: a western part ruled by Kiev and by the oligarch Petro Poroshenko, and an eastern part, in the hands of the pro-Russian separatists who have formed the independent (self-proclaimed) republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Minsk II, the peace agreements backed by the West, have had no result: no ceasefire, no new Constitution, no elections, no transfer of the control of the border with Russia to Kiev. This is the sore point: what is at stake for the international scenario in this compromised relationship between Moscow and Kiev? The game is of crucial importance: first of all, NATO has a huge interest in promoting Ukraine’s integrity, so as to be sure to have a friendly state on the southern border with Russia, considering that the northern boundary is already secured through the Baltic Republics.
European Union is not indifferent either to this question: for middle-eastern countries it is part of the anti-Russian buttress; for Germany, establishing its influence in the country would be a great economic objective. Above all, the country represents a further step to complete European integration: the previous government fell precisely because considered too lukewarm on that point. Yes, because Ukrainians believe in Europe: the protests in the square in Kiev, in 2013, were intended to make progress in the integration process. Russian aggression in Ukraine has been partially helped, in turn, by the weakness of the European Union, which had not managed to preserve the balance – albeit unstable – that had lasted since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
It is this weakness that Pope Francis, slaps on a regular basis at present, inviting us to pray for the Ukrainian Christian community and raise funds to support it. That is how the Church goes against the mainstream, finds solutions, in contrast with those who (all of us to some degree) are only able to criticize or to pursue their own, particular, insignificant interest. But that is how you change history, with gratuitous good deeds.