NEW HAVEN, Conn. — The Knights of Columbus is providing $400,000 to relief programs sponsored by the Catholic Church in Ukraine.
The violent conflict in Ukraine has created “an enormous humanitarian disaster in the freezing winter months,” the fraternal organization said in announcing the aid.
Gifts by the Knights of $200,000 each to the Eastern- and Latin-rite Catholic communities of Ukraine are being used for humanitarian relief, including projects that feed and aid homeless children and refugees living on the streets of the capital city of Kiev, it said.
The Knights of Columbus sent the aid to Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, major archbishop of Kiev-Halych, and Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv, the leaders of the Ukraine’s Eastern and Latin churches, respectively.
“Too often, the conflict in Ukraine is discussed purely in military or geopolitical terms, while the most vulnerable and marginalized — the young and old, the poor, the sick, and the increasing number of refugee families — are almost invisible to the outside world,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Our support is meant to further enable the bishops of Ukraine as they help their people and further implement the Holy Father’s call to aid those most in need.”
During their “ad limina” visit to the Vatican in February, Pope Francis assured Ukraine’s Eastern- and Latin-rite bishops that “the Holy See is at your side,” and urged them “to be attentive and considerate to the poor.”
“Working in the midst of uncertainty, many of the Catholic efforts are designed to help provide a social safety net for the needy, especially orphans and children who are separated from their parents,” the Knights said in the announcement on the group’s aid.
The programs are an effort to carry out “in a practical way the spiritual message of Pope Francis,” the organization added.
According to AP, the fighting in eastern Ukraine was diminishing as a cease-fire agreement reached Feb. 12 began to take hold. On March 2, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said more than 6,000 people have died since fighting began in April 2014. The U.N. refugee office puts the number of Ukrainians displaced within their own country at close to 1 million.
Last March, Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine, and pro-Russian separatists control Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the eastern part of the country.