The majority of Christians in Ukraine today belong to the Orthodox community. There is also an Eastern Rite Catholic community, the Uniates, which represents about 10% of believers, and a Latin Rite Catholic community, which gathers about 1% of believers, i.e., about 450,000 people, under the Archdiocese of Lviv. The Latin Rite seeks to play a key-role in ameliorating the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
The Latin Rite Catholic bishops petitioned Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday to consecrate Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The petition, published on their website, refers to the appeal made by Our Lady to the children of Fatima. The consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is one of the requests made in a private revelation to the three children on 13 July 1917. Sister Lucia is said to have told the Pope that “the Virgin Mary gave her the promise that this consecration would inaugurate the conversion of Russia and a period of world peace.” A consecration was made by Pope John Paul II on 25 March 1984, but without explicitly and specifically mentioning Russia, which may explain the renewed request by the Ukrainian bishops.
Ukrainian Catholics of the Latin rite have been invited by their bishops to recite a consecration text in their private prayer, as well as at the end of each Mass.
Apart from Catholics, the Ukrainian Orthodox community is divided among different churches—which also has consequences on the position of the faithful in the war.
There are two Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, one of which is recognised as autocephalous since 2019, and the other as dissident. A third church is accountable to the Moscow Patriarchate. A few days ago, this third church—the Metropolitan Onuphre, primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church dependent on the Moscow Patriarchate—issued a statement in which he emphasised his Church’s commitment to the defence of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and condemned the war with Russia as a grave sin before God:
Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we appeal to the President of Russia and ask for an immediate end to the fratricidal war. The Ukrainian and Russian peoples came out of the Dnieper baptismal font, and the war between these peoples is a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his own brother out of envy. Such a war has no justification either with God or with men.
With this unequivocally worded statement, he distanced himself from his patriarch, Kirill of Moscow, who did not wish to respond.
Kirill’s silence testifies to his hostility towards his Ukrainian subordinate. Patriarch Kirill is indeed a fervent supporter of Vladimir Putin’s policies. He never did recognise the proclamation of autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in 2019, which was acknowledged by the Patriarchate of Constantinople. In such a conflict, faith is intimately linked to politics.