Pope Francis is sending Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski to Ukraine once again. The Dicastery for the Service of Charity, which he has headed since its creation in June 2022, announced this mission on June 22, 2023. Since the start of the Russian offensive, the Papal Almoner has embodied the Holy See’s solidarity with the populations affected by the conflict.
This new mission, the precise dates of which have not been communicated, will take the Polish cardinal to the Kherson region where, “following the destruction of the dike, the innocent population is in great difficulty and many people have lost their lives,” states the press release.
At a time when the Dnieper River was the front line between the Russian and Ukrainian armies, the explosion of the Kakhovka dam on June 6 caused massive flooding. The human toll of the breach is not yet precisely known, as several villages were completely engulfed. The ecological and agricultural consequences of this act will be long-lasting for the entire region, with 80,000 hectares of nature reserve destroyed. Ukraine attributed responsibility for the explosion to Russian forces, who have controlled the dam since the start of the offensive in February 2022.
In this context, “Cardinal Krajewski’s mission will be to be with the people, to pray with them and to bring an embrace and concrete support from the Pontiff,” it says. The apostolic chaplain is to travel to Ukraine with a car loaded with medicines, and plans to visit “along the way, the various religious communities, the parishes of Byzantine and Latin rite Catholics and Orthodox.”
A second van filled with food supplies (mostly from Korea), medicines, and medical equipment will leave in the next few days, bound for the areas hardest hit by the dam explosion.
This mission “underlines the closeness of Pope Francis to martyred Ukraine,” it adds. Cardinal Krajewski, often personally at the wheel of his vehicle, has visited the country on several occasions as Pope Francis’ emissary. In December 2022, he brought thermal T-shirts and generators, bringing practical help to Ukrainians affected by power cuts due to Russian strikes on energy installations.
During his previous visit, in September, the 59-year-old chaplain visited the regions of Odessa, Žytomyr, Kharkiv and other localities in eastern Ukraine, assuring Ukrainians “that they [were] not alone in the face of this situation which brings only destruction and death.”
The young prefect had also reported coming under fire during this tour near the front. In Itzioum, he paid his respects to the remains of 500 people buried in mass graves. During a general audience, the Pope confided that his envoy told him about “the savageries, the monstrosities, the tortured corpses” he observed in Ukraine.
The Polish cardinal’s first visit to Ukraine was on March 7, 2022, two weeks after the start of the Russian invasion. He visited refugees and authorities in Lviv and Kiev. On March 26, he left on a second trip to deliver an ambulance to Lviv. In mid-April, he experienced a trying Holy Week, praying in Ukraine in front of mass graves on Good Friday. On this occasion, he again delivered an ambulance donated by the Pontiff.