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PPE for Ukraine, rehabilitation and ecumenism for Russia

By Katie Ascough - 25 September, 2020

Fr Grzegorz ministering in Ukraine during the COVID-19 crisis ©Aid to the Church in Need

Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has provided personal protective equipment (PPE) for the priests, 92 seminarians and around 1,000 members of Ukraine’s religious communities.

Fr Grzegorz, a Polish priest from Lublin who is now based in Lviv, was able to visit COVID-19 patients twice a week thanks to the help. He said: “I visit every room, I bless them and talk to them and try to bring Good News … The patients have a strong faith. I told them that Jesus Christ is very close to them in their suffering, for he too suffered some of the same symptoms as those fighting this disease, since he too struggled to breathe.”

In Russia, ACN is helping a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts in Sapernoe, led by Fr Sergij Belkov, a Russian Orthodox priest who has run the centre since 1996. The centre has rehabilitated hundreds of young men, with a maximum of 60 accommodated at one time, and has a sister centre in Torfyanoye that helps female addicts. Speaking to ACN, Fr Belkov said: “Thank you to the benefactors of ACN for giving pastoral and practical help …We pray every day for the benefactors – that is a rule.”

Also supported this month by ACN’s UK office was St Adalbert’s parish in Russia’s Kaliningrad region, which has the highest proportion of Catholics in relation to the overall population. The parish priest there, Fr Jerzy Steckiewicz, is building a centre for families in crisis, parishioners and visiting pilgrims. Fr Steckiewicz, an advocate of ecumenism, is planning joint family events for Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and has worked on ACN’s previous ecumenical working group conferences.

Also supported by ACN were priests in the Diocese of Irkutsk – the largest in the world at 10 million square kilometres – who received help for visits to far-flung parishioners. Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of ACN (UK), underlined the importance of the region to the charity, which has long supported reconciliation between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. He said: “The vital and prophetic work of ACN has for many years focused heavily on Russia and Eastern Europe, helping heal the wounds of atheism and the denial of God.

“The help of ACN is still very much needed today – as a bridge-builder and healer to proclaim the love of Christ for all. As Metropolitan Kirill of Stavropol said: ‘There are no boundaries to charitable love and no borders across which God’s love cannot reach.’”

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