Lviv, Ukraine, Apr 24 (EFE).- War has overshadowed Orthodox Easter celebrations in Ukraine this year although festivities were held to varying degrees around the nation, often doubling up as a reminder of those unable to sit at the family table — the millions of refugees, the soldiers on the frontline and those killed by Russia’s brutal invasion.
Easter celebrations differed from region to region. The Black Sea city of Odesa was mourning the at least eight people, including a three-month-old baby, who were killed by a Russian airstrike on Saturday.
In the western city of Lviv, far from the front-line although not out of the reach of Russian missile strikes, there was a more festive atmosphere despite the presence of Ukrainian troops and air-raid sirens serving as a reminder of war..
Russia’s invasion has exacerbated a rift within the Orthodox Church. The Moscow patriarchate is a faithful defender of the war while that of Ukraine defends its own national identity.
The bulk of the Ukraine’s Greek Catholics also follows the Orthodox calendar instead of the Gregorian.
Their leaders are fervent defenders of Ukrainian national identity against Russia, to such an extent that national flags have been waving from churches long before the war began.
Yuriy Vaskiy is a priests at central Lviv’s Dominican monastery, where thousands of faithful have attended the five consecutive Easter services.
For him it is normal that the flag of his country flies next to that of the Vatican: “We are Catholics and Ukrainians. We always keep our country in mind,” he said.
“We judge the Russians’ aggression because they attack us for no reason. The gospel tells us that killing is a sin. However, protecting the family, the nation and our people is a responsibility of all Christians,” he added.
Nearby is the military church of Saints Peter and Paul, built by the Jesuits in a baroque style and later handed over to Greek-Catholic church in honor of the Ukrainian armed forces.
Panels with messages from children who have lost their parents in the war have been installed on its walls as have photographs of dozens of soldiers killed in battle.
Olya brought her two children to the military church on Sunday morning. She has created a group of women who take turns praying 24 hours a day for Ukraine and its people.
They pray “that the Russians realize what they are doing wrong, that they open their eyes and let us live in peace,” she said.
The wishes are similar for Ukrainian Orthodox faithful. One of its headquarters is the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the national flag flies there, too.
“Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and what is to come now is the resurrection of Ukraine,” Zoryna, a woman who prayed at the church on Sunday morning, said. EFE