He called on communities and parishes to open their homes and hearts to the tens of thousands of refugees expected to arrive here, adding: “To that end I join in calls to the UK government to be more generous in its response to the refugee crisis and also for urgent cross-border cooperation here on the island of Ireland to ensure that bureaucracy does not get in the way of hospitality and welcome for traumatised people searching for respite in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “Amongst all the harrowing images which has been emerging from Ukraine in recent days, a particular photograph struck me forcefully. It shows a group of men carrying the heavy figure of the crucified Christ out of the Armenian cathedral in Lviv to protect it from any bombardment. The scene looks like something from the stations of the cross - the precious life-size figure of Jesus is taken down from the wooden cross and carried down into the bunker for safekeeping - a bunker where countless Ukrainians are already sheltering. Two weeks ago I called the office of His Beatitude Archbishop Shevchuk - the Ukrainian Greek Catholic archbishop of Kyev, and Archbishop Mokrzycki in Lviv. I wanted to assure them that the thoughts and prayers of the people of Ireland are with them and their people in the midst of the horrific turmoil that is impacting their country.
“It is heartening,” he added, “that there has already been such an outpouring of prayer and charity and solidarity from Ireland towards the people of Ukraine.”
A special collection, he advised, will be taken up at all Masses across Ireland on the weekend of Sunday 27 March.
Speaking about the plight of the refugees he added: “We commend them all to the intercession of Saint Patrick today - Patrick who at a young age was captured and trafficked to these shores, no doubt frightened, disoriented, distressed and fearful for his life. In the opening words of his Confession, our patron saint describes how he and others ‘were scattered among many nations’.
“We simply couldn’t celebrate the feast of our patron Saint Patrick this year without reaching out in thought and in prayer to the people of Ukraine - those who share this island with us, and their families and friends who are trapped in the horror of destruction and bloodshed at home. We also acknowledge the many Russian people here and in their homeland who bear no responsibility for this heartbreaking situation and who share our desire for peace and an end to this terrible violence. Although we are many miles away from the horrific bombardment and loss of life, the sacrifice of the Ukrainian people is coming home to us in a shocking manner. Christians and all people of goodwill here in Ireland are instinctively reaching out in compassion and prayerful solidarity to them. We join our small Lenten sacrifices with their immense suffering.
“As tens of thousands of refugees arrive in Ireland in the near future, the Gospel is calling on us to open up to them our hearts and our homes. We pray that this land of welcomes will offer a compassionate welcome here to our brothers and sisters in their need, and that many in our parish communities will pledge a space in their homes or other suitable accommodation. I encourage our parish pastoral and finance councils in the coming weeks to consider whether there may be suitable spaces available in our parishes that could be pledged.”