PHILADELPHIA — Ukrainian Catholics in Philadelphia and throughout the nation are “(welcoming) the European Union’s courageous step to extend Ukraine candidate status,” said Archbishop Borys Gudziak, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the U.S.
Charles Michel, president of the European Council, announced June 23 that both Ukraine and neighboring Moldova had been granted candidate status, in what he described as a “historic” decision amid the council’s June 23-24 summit in Brussels.
“We are sending a very strong message, a message of unity and of geopolitical determination,” said Michel, noting that former Soviet republic Georgia, whose “European perspective” also was recognized, would be also granted candidacy “once certain priorities are addressed.”
The European Council is made up of the heads of state of the EU members.
Ukraine applied for candidacy four days after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, which continues assaults Russia launched in 2014 with the attempted annexation of Crimea and the backing of separatist regions in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The latest round of aggression has been marked by particularly gruesome violence against civilians, prompting multinational calls for war crime and genocide investigations.
Ukraine’s road to full accession into the EU could take a decade or more, but the June 23 announcement is “a sign that the EU recognizes the sacrifices Ukrainians are making daily to defend and guarantee Europe’s future,” Archbishop Gudziak told CatholicPhilly.com, the online news outlet of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
“We appreciate Ukraine’s closer association with Europe, not only because it will help Ukraine’s defense at this time of the unprovoked Russian invasion, but also because Ukraine will contribute much to the EU,” said the archbishop, who heads the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia.
Ukraine, which gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, will strengthen and enrich the EU and its 27 member states, he said.
“Ukraine has brought the EU together while enduring its own internal crisis,” said Archbishop Gudziak. “Ukrainians are showing that there are principles worth living and worth dying for. Ukrainians in the hundreds are giving their lives every day for the principles of democracy, justice and freedom.”
In particular, “two things have become evident” regarding EU unity.
“First, the Euro currency alone cannot keep the EU together,” he said. “Second, neglect of fundamental divine and human principles — truth, justice, liberty — cannot guarantee peace and prosperity.”
As Russia’s brutal attacks continue, “Ukrainians are making the supreme sacrifice to defend (the) principles and values upon which the EU, and European civilization in general, were founded,” said Archbishop Gudziak. “They deserve more than anyone to be part of the European communion.”