ROME — An evening Good Friday procession, led by the pope, in which a Russian and Ukrainian woman will carry a cross together, is facing opposition from Ukrainians who call it “incomprehensible” and “inappropriate” .
Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See also protested the decision to include women in the annual Stations of the Cross, which recalls the stages of Christ’s crucifixion.
The two women, Ukrainian nurse Irina and Russian nursing student Albina, who are friends, are expected to silently shake hands while holding the cross.
Andri YurashUkrainian ambassador to the Holy See, wrote on Twitter that there were “concerns in Ukraine and other communities” and said he was “working to try to explain the difficulties and possible consequences “.
Greek Catholic Archbishop of Kyiv Sviatoslav Shevchuk called the idea “inappropriate and ambiguous, and does not take into account the context of Russian military aggression against Ukraine.”
In a statement on Tuesday, he said the gesture was “incoherent and even offensive, especially as we await the second and bloodiest attack by Russian troops on our towns and villages.”
Shevchuk said many Ukrainian Catholics had asked him to “convey to the Holy See their outrage and rejection of this project.” For them, reconciliation “will only be possible when the war is over and those guilty of crimes against humanity have been brought to justice”, he said.
Pope Francis has long sought to improve relations with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, a key supporter of President Vladimir Putin, who sanctioned the war. Although Francis condemned the invasion itself as “sacrilege”, he avoided directly criticizing Putin by name, calling him “some potentate” instead.
The Bishop of kyiv for the Latin Rite, Monsignor Vitalii Kryvytsky, told the Italian religious news agency Sir that he “shared the pain of his compatriots” and had done everything he could “to highlight the insufficiency of this liturgical gesture, in the context of this horrible war and its possible planned exacerbation.
The apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, the Vatican’s equivalent of an ambassador, Bishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, said he communicated the Ukrainians’ protests to the Holy See. He explained the decision by saying that “under the cross, we are all children of God, aggressors and attacked, in this case Russia and Ukraine”.
“Churches and religious organizations in Ukraine want to work for reconciliation, but they know they can only talk about it when the aggression stops.
The Vatican press office did not respond to calls on Friday.