BRISBANE’S Ukrainian community will gather at Woolloongabba’s Church of the Protection of the Mother of God on March 9, offering prayers and collecting alms to support their countrymen as the political crisis in the Ukraine worsens.
Ukrainian Catholic chaplain Fr Stefan Sapun said the liturgy at the 9.30am Mass would be dedicated to all who have suffered in the ongoing conflict in what had been described as “the worst crisis since the Cold War”.
“There will also be a special liturgy for all those who have lost lives so far,” he said.
Pope Francis last Sunday appealed for prayer for the Ukraine after Russian troops moved into the Crimean Peninsula.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared Russia had the right to invade, even though United States President Barack Obama warned against military action.
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halyc issued a statement on February 28 praying for the people of Crimea and appealing for the unity of Ukraine.
Protests in Kiev began in November, when the Government announced it would not sign a major economic partnership agreement with the European Union, in favour of a $15 billion bailout agreement with Russia.
Tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Kiev, at times occupying government buildings.
Protests continued through February, until more than 80 people were killed – some of them by snipers – during protests.
On February 21, Viktor Yanukovych, then president of Ukraine, fled Kiev and the next day, parliament voted to remove him from power.
Fr Sapun said the majority of the 300 families in the Brisbane community had their roots in western Ukraine, which has a strong Catholic presence.
He had heard no mention of deaths linked to family and friends of the community.
“However, much of the violence occurred in the west in places such as Kiev so this situation could change,” he said. “Many of the families came to Australia 50 or 60 years ago so in many cases connections have been lost.
“So it may be some time before they hear of deaths of people they knew caught up in the violence.”
Fr Sapun said funds would be collected during the Mass today and in Ukrainian communities around the world to send to the Archbishop in Kiev.
“Many people are in a desperate situation having lost their homes,” he said. “Also medical supplies are running short … there are so many things these people need.”