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Ukrainians, Palestinian Christians won’t be robbed of Easter joy

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Fr Simon Ckuj at St Andrew’s Church, Lidcombe. Photo: Supplied
Fr Simon Ckuj at St Andrew’s Church, Lidcombe. Photo: Supplied

Celebrations this Easter season will be subdued but no less meaningful for Ukrainian and Palestinian Christians anxious about loved ones living in active war zones.

At St Andrew’s Greek Catholic Church in Lidcombe Andriana Piasetska is worried about her family as Russia stepped up attacks on energy infrastructure near her home in Ukraine.

“It’s very dangerous, I’ve been praying so much for my family, my city, my village and for Ukraine,” she said.

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With the Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic churches now opting for the Gregorian Calendar over the Julian calendar because of its association with the Russian Orthodox Church, parish priest Fr Simon Ckuj was fielding calls from confused parishioners during Holy Week asking when the Easter liturgies were being held.

“It is confusing because the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Ukraine is continuing to use the old calendar for Easter,” he said.

“Some people are intensifying their efforts in their faith but others are becoming despondent as the war goes on, asking why God doesn’t seem to be listening to their prayers.

“It’s a very human reaction but we are trying to encourage and support them.

“Life always overcomes death, that’s the message Christ brings us. No one has the right to take away our joy in the resurrection.”

Palestinian Christians will mostly attend the Orthodox Easter liturgies in May, including at Sts Peter and Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Doonside in Sydney’s west.

Parish priest Fr Aziz Abwi and assistant priest Fr George Alailan have been ministering to more than a dozen Palestinian Christian families in the area.

“We’re preparing to celebrate our most important feast, the feast of the resurrection from death, darkness and ignorance, but there is much suffering here,” Fr Abwi told The Catholic Weekly.

“Our one sure refuge is God and so on this feast of feasts it is a most appropriate occasion to pray to God to seek mercy, to pray for leaders to be more compassionate, so that people might be able to live in rest and peace.”

President of Christian Palestinians of Australia Suzan Wahhab is organising a Lenten pilgrimage walk this month to pray for a ceasefire and raise funds to support families newly arrived in the country from Gaza, as well as families still seeking refuge in Gaza’s Holy Family Catholic and Greek Orthodox St Porphyrius churches.

“We can’t celebrate Easter properly with the war ongoing and people suffering,” she said.

“People will go to church but the reality is many are depressed.”

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