Knights launch ‘Novena for Peace and Healing in Ukraine’ as war marks second year

Supreme Knight Patrick Kelly of the Knights of Columbus and Ukraine State Deputy Youriy Maletskiy, a leader of the Knights in Lviv, deliver Easter care packages April 12, 2022, to Ukrainian families at a 14th-century monastery in Rava-Ruska in the Lviv Archdiocese. The families, been displaced by war, were taking refuge in the monastery in western Ukraine. As the war reached the two-year mark, the Knights called for nine days of prayer, starting Feb. 15, to end the bloodshed. (OSV News photo/Tamino Petelinsek, courtesy Knights of Columbus)

(OSV News) — As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine reaches the two-year mark, the Knights of Columbus are calling for nine days of prayer to end the bloodshed.

The national chaplains of the Knights in Ukraine, Metropolitan Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lviv and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Bishop Mykhailo Bubniy of the Archiepiscopal Exarchate of Odesa, recently announced a “Novena for Peace and Healing in Ukraine.”

In their joint appeal, the bishops invited “the brotherhood of the Knights and people of good will around the world” to begin the novena on Feb. 15, nine days ahead of the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty on Feb. 24, 2022. The novena also is designed to be prayed at any time of the year.

The intentions for each day of the novena correlate with the titles listed in a litany to Knights founder Blessed Michael McGivney, known for his deep pastoral concern for the vulnerable.

The prayers of the novena have been adapted from the Byzantine Catholic rite’s “Prayer Service Sung in Times of War.” The daily reflections were composed by an unnamed young Ukrainian woman described as “a friend of the Knights of Columbus.”

The successive days of the novena focus on specific groups affected by the war, which continues attacks launched in 2014 against Ukraine. Two joint reports from the New Lines Institute and the Raoul Wallenberg Center for Human Rights have determined Russia’s invasion constitutes genocide, with Ukraine reporting more than 124,651 war crimes committed by Russia in Ukraine since February 2022.

Among the most recent victims of Russian atrocities was the Putiatina family in Kharkiv, whose home exploded into flames after a Feb. 9 Russian drone attack on a nearby fuel depot, killing the couple and their three young children — including a 10-month-old baby whose body was incinerated in the explosion.

The novena’s first day remembers the war’s widows, who may number in the tens of thousands, according to estimates.

“Visiting a Ukrainian cemetery, one will see far too many fresh graves — many of them husbands and fathers whose world turned upside down two years ago, when they became soldiers overnight,” the reflection reads. “Today we pray for their surviving families, especially the widows of war undergoing their new, personal Way of the Cross.”

Day two recalls the thousands of children orphaned by the war, which “robs its youngest victims of their childhood,” the reflection notes, adding that “every city in Ukraine has hundreds of families whose children have lost a mother or father to the war.”

The third day highlights parents who have lost children to the war through death on the battlefield, shelling or other violence, as well as “parents whose children are missing.”

In March 2023, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his commissioner for children’s rights, Maria Alekseyevna Lvova-Belova, for the unlawful deportation and transfer of 19,546 children from occupied areas of Ukraine to the Russian Federation.

A December 2023 report by Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab found that both Russia and Belarus “are jointly targeting children for removal from Ukraine, coordinating their transport from occupied Ukraine to Russia and onward to Belarus, and subjecting children to re-education, including military training.”

The novena also intercedes for emergency responders and medical professionals, the sick, the dying, veterans, those who have died in the war, internally displaced persons and refugees, those in captivity and young people.

The introduction to the novena notes that the perspective of the young Ukrainian woman who composed the reflections “illuminates the necessity for prayerful solidarity and the context of the Order’s humanitarian efforts, which have helped more than 1.6 million people.”

To date, some 10,000 Knights in Poland and Ukraine have distributed over 7.7 million pounds of food and supplies through their Knights of Columbus Charity Convoys — along with 250,000 care packages, 4,000 coats for Ukrainian children, 60,000 rosaries, and hundreds of wheelchairs, generators and other essentials. With the support of more than 68,000 donors, the Knights as a whole have provided Ukraine with close to $22.4 million in aid through the Ukraine Solidarity Fund.

Szymon Czyszek, director of international growth in Europe for the Knights of Columbus, previously told OSV News that his organization’s members are “doing heroic work, and they are willing to risk their lives to bring aid to people in places like Avdiivka and … other villages that (are) close to the front line.”

Czyszek said some Knights have had “bombs explode in front of them” as they travel to ensure aid reaches such areas, where “people are very often forgotten and have nowhere to go.”

In occupied areas of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region, the Knights — along with the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and Caritas, the official humanitarian arm of the universal Catholic Church — were banned by Yevgeny Balitsky, the Kremlin-installed head of the area’s military-civil administration.

An order signed by Balitysky in December 2002 denounced the Knights as “associated with the intelligence services of the United States and the Vatican.”


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