On behalf of Pope Francis, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski praised the humanitarian efforts of the Knights of Columbus during a recent visit to the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Lviv, Ukraine. The Polish cardinal — who since 2013 has served as papal almoner, the official in charge of the pope’s charitable work — met and prayed with Catholic communities in western Ukraine in early March.
“The pope is very grateful to all those who show love to the Ukrainian people,” Cardinal Krajewski said to press March 9 during his visit to the seminary in Lviv. “Thank you to all, including here the Knights of Columbus, who were very close to John Paul II.”
He added, “I have come to a country of many blessed people, because this unbelievable multitude of help and kindness that is now directed toward Ukraine is a great blessing.”
The cardinal was welcomed by Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv — former personal secretary of St. John Paul II and member of the Order — who also thanked the Knights for their charitable efforts. Since the beginning of the conflict, Knights have been providing humanitarian assistance, with several K of C leaders — including Ukraine State Deputy Yuriy Maletskiy and State Secretary Petro Galuga — serving on the “Anti-Crisis Committee” formed by the Archdiocese of Lviv.
“From the very beginning, the Knights of Columbus started working, because there are so many of them in Ukraine,” said Auxiliary Bishop Edward Kawa, head of the committee. “In any situation, we know that we can rely on them.”
On March 13, Bishop Kava joined the Order with eight Ukrainian laymen, representing both the Ukrainian Greek and Latin-rite Catholic communities. It was the first exemplification in Ukraine since the Russian invasion, adding to the Order’s more than 1,800 members in the war-torn country.
At the seminary and pastoral center in Lviv, Knights have collaborated with the archdiocese and Caritas Ukraine to help provide temporary shelter, food, medicine, clothing, sleeping bags and toys to those who have been displaced.
“Mostly those who run away are women with small children and the elderly, people who can’t cope,” said State Deputy Maletskiy. “The Knights of Columbus are trying to help them and give them a place to live. We look for places where they can stay for the night.”
The Knights of Columbus in Ukraine has also established a communication network among councils to coordinate the delivery of supplies and stay in touch with those in the more devastated eastern part of the country. As Russian attacks have intensified, the need for basic necessities has grown, but so has the difficulty of delivering them.
“People don’t have anything to eat anymore, they don’t have anything to drink,” said Mykhailo Chipak, a member of St. John Bosco Council 16846 in Lviv. “The Russians shoot at houses anywhere. They are deliberately making such provocations by firing on houses, on residential buildings where people live in order to destroy our infrastructure as much as possible.”
State Deputy Maletskiy added that the wounded are not limited to soldiers fighting in the country’s military.
“There are many wounded, not only among soldiers, but also among the civilian population,” he said. “What they need most is first aid, such as bandages, gauze and hemostatics.”
Knights in Ukraine have been busy receiving and distributing large shipments of supplies collected by brother Knights in Poland. One of the first large deliveries was made March 1, when Knights drove an 18-wheel “Solidarity Shuttle,” filled with goods from three regional K of C collection sites in Poland, to the seminary in Lviv. Many more deliveries, large and small, have followed.
The delivery and distribution of supplies are part of an Orderwide effort to provide immediate aid to Ukrainian refugees and displaced families. On Feb. 25, the day following the Russian invasion, Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly encouraged the Order’s more than 2 million members to respond with continued prayers and material support — particularly through donations to the Order’s Ukraine Solidarity Fund. In addition to an immediate $1 million commitment and $500,000 of matched funds from the Knights of Columbus United in Charity Fund, more than $4.5 million has been raised, as of mid-March, to directly assist relief efforts for internally displaced persons and Ukrainian refugees.
Amid dire circumstances, State Deputy Maletskiy remains hopeful for an end to the crisis, relying on God and seeking the intercession of Blessed Michael McGivney. He remarked on how Father McGivney’s prophetic vision — a Catholic fraternity, founded on the principles of charity and unity, in service to families, widows and orphans — has created the opportunity for Knights to provide relief for refugees in these dark times.
“The activity of the Knights of Columbus is not limited to America,” Maletskiy said. “We pray constantly, and I hope that soon the Lord God will hear our prayers and, with the protection of Blessed Michael McGivney, we will be able to see our brothers again who are now in a difficult position in the war zone.”
Supporting the Ukraine Solidarity Fund will provide temporary shelter, food, medical supplies, clothing, communications and religious supplies for those in need. These items will all be immediately distributed, and 100% of your gift will go directly to these displaced people. Donate to the Ukraine Solidarity Fund.
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