By Gerard Gough

SCOTTISH parishes are being asked to heed Pope Francis’ recent call to support a special collection in all European parishes on April 24 to raise funds to help the people of Ukraine.

The Holy Father made the call during the Regina Caeli on Sunday, April 3, to assist for those suffering the consequences of violence in Ukraine. Speaking to tens of thousands of people at the end of Mass in St Peter’s Square, the Pope said: “This gesture of charity, beyond alleviating material suffering, expresses my personal closeness and the solidarity of the entire Church.”

“I fervently hope that this will, without further delay, help to promote peace and respect of rights in that land which is so tried,” the Holy Father added.

The announcement of Pope Francis’ special collection was made nearly a month after his March 7 meeting with leaders of the Permanent Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (UGCC), who were gathered in Rome for their annual synod of bishops.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Papal charitable office, will organise the distribution of funds raised in response to the Pope’s appeal for aid. Proceeds from the collection will be matched by an equal sum to be made available by Pope Francis himself and will benefit the residents of affected areas and internally displaced people.

The Holy Father pointed out that so far ‘more than a million’ people have been forced to leave their homes due to the severity of the situation, the majority of whom ‘are elderly and children.’ He assured his closeness and prayer to those suffering, and announced his decision ‘to promote a humanitarian support in their favour.

The situation in the former Soviet state remains tense after violence erupted again in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed rebels, international monitors have warned.

Implementation of a deal agreed in Minsk last year, which would allow for the lifting of sanctions on Russia, and a lull in violence late last year had raised hopes that the conflict could be resolved soon.

More than 9000 people have been killed since clashes erupted in April 2014 and 1.7 million people have been displaced, particularly in Crimea—now part of Russia—and the eastern Donbass region.

Half a million people urgently need food and health authorities say more than double that number require urgent medical attention. Essential medicines, anesthesia and insulin are lacking and many operations are performed without anesthesia. Drinking water is scarce for 1.3 million people and gas and electricity are only intermittently available.

The vast majority of Christians living in Ukraine are Orthodox but there are about a million Roman Catholics and about four million Eastern Rite Catholics who are in unity with Rome. Catholics in Ukraine have mobilised to assist their countrymen in need, regardless of background or creed and Scottish parishes along with the rest of Europe’s Catholics will now follow suit.

—Anyone wishing to donate to the appeal through Missio Scotland can do so via phone, e-mail, our Facebook or website