Ukrainian Catholic leaders say they have been deeply moved by the tremendous support and prayers of all Australian Catholics amid the ongoing horror and devastation caused by the current war with Russia.
Just over 1400 people packed St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney for an historic Rite of Consecration of Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at 3am on 26 March, timed to coincide with a similar ceremony in the Vatican led by Pope Francis on the Feast of the Annunciation.
At the conclusion of the service, the cathedral remained open for over four hours of Eucharistic Adoration followed by a Mass at 9am.
“It is to the immaculate heart of our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Peace; in her unique relationship to the Prince of Peace our Lord Jesus Christ … that we as the Church universal offer our heartfelt plea as Christ’s body.”
In a demonstration of solidarity with the Ukrainian Catholic Church, its Vicar General Fr Simon Ckuj was invited by the Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, Fr Don Richardson, to lead a decade of the Rosary at the service.
Alongside Fr Ckuj at the service was fellow Ukrainian Catholic priest, Fr Justin McDonnell from St Andrew’s parish in Lidcombe and many Ukrainian Catholics who had travelled as far away as Wollongong to attend the early morning service.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP said the Consecration was an historic moment for the Catholic Church in Australia and indeed around the world.
“It is to the immaculate heart of our Blessed Mother, the Queen of Peace; in her unique relationship to the Prince of Peace our Lord Jesus Christ, and her compassionate love for all of humanity, that we as the Church universal offer our heartfelt plea as Christ’s body”, he told the congregation.
“That she may intercede for all of us, especially our brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Russia, ensuring that the light of God’s forgiveness may shine through the darkness of human hearts so that the loving peace of God our Father may be restored at last”, Archbishop Fisher added.
Fr Ckuj said the Consecration has been a powerful reminder of the universality of the Catholic Church, emphasising that all 19 Ukrainian Catholic parishes across Australia had joined in the prayers.
“I encourage everyone everyday to offer a prayer for the people of Ukraine and for peace and let us not forget the conversion of the hearts of those waging this war”, he told The Catholic Weekly.
“Our Ukrainian Catholic bishops gathered in the town of Zarvanytsia which is where the Mother of God appeared many years ago and is a great site of pilgrimage.”
“There are also victims in Russia. There are brave souls there and the Catholic Church is in a very awkward situation in Russia at the moment, since under current laws, if anyone speaks out about the conflict, they could be arrested. It’s certainly not a free country and we have to remember the small Catholic communities in Russia too at this time”, he added.
Fr Ckuj said many members of his congregation were growing increasingly anxious about the welfare of friends and relatives caught up in the conflict, some on the frontline of battle, with others in refugee camps in Ukraine, Poland or other countries offering sanctuary.
He said Ukrainian Catholics in Australia were drawing inspiration from leaders back home, turning to the intercession of Mary in these troubled times.
“Our Ukrainian Catholic bishops gathered in the town of Zarvanytsia which is where the Mother of God appeared many years ago and is a great site of pilgrimage. All the Ukrainian Bishops came together alongside Patriarch Sviatoslav Shevchuk for the Act of Consecration and so it’s been a powerful sign of unity right around the world at this time”.