Ukrainian Bishop thanks Scots for welcoming people seeking refuge from war
Published on 19 August 2022 4 minutes read
The bishop for the Ukrainian Catholic community in the UK has thanked the people of Scotland for "warmly welcoming" thousands of people who have fled the Russia-Ukraine war.
Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski said the "generous hospitality and solidarity" that they have shown to those seeking refuge is an example of people being united as sisters and brothers through Jesus Christ.
More than 13,000 Ukrainians have settled in Scotland under Visa sponsorship schemes following Russia's decision to launch a full-scale war in February.
Bishop Nowakowski of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Holy Family of London is taking part in a joint Ukrainian-Scottish service at Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church in the west end of Glasgow on Sunday and all are welcome.
He will lead a service from 10am-11am which will include the Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom – an ancient Byzantine liturgical service common to the Slavic people and the Greeks which will be celebrated in Ukrainian with some portions in English.
A Presbyterian service will be led by Steven Owens, a Church of Scotland minister-in-training who has been doing pulpit supply at the church, from 11.30am-12.30pm.
Kindness and support
Speaking ahead of the joint service, Bishop Nowakowski said: "As the bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in Scotland, I am so grateful to the Church of Scotland and especially the congregation at Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church for opening their doors to our Ukrainian community in Glasgow.
"Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia, millions of its citizens have fled to Western Europe and thousands of Ukrainians have been welcomed warmly by the people of Scotland.
"This generous hospitality and solidarity is truly an example of being united as sisters and brothers through our Lord Jesus Christ.
"I am aware that the kindness and support in the form of humanitarian aid for those who have arrived here in Scotland is also reaching ecumenical partners, not only in Ukraine but also in borderland countries such as Hungary.
"The opportunity to pray and celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Ukrainian with those who have had to leave Ukraine, fleeing harm's way is most important."
The joint service is being held in the spirit of extending hospitality and welcome.
In May, the General Assembly endorsed a historic Declaration of Friendship with the Catholic Church in Scotland - known as the St Margaret Declaration - that offers 'a decisive and irrevocable statement of our friendship with one another, based on our shared faith in Christ.
Bishop Nowakowski said a survey conducted in Ukraine in 2019 discovered that the vast majority of citizens believe in God and that public worship is important to them.
"In good times of blessings, we turn to God to give thanks for all we receive," he added.
"It is also important that we have the opportunity to turn to God when we are in times of challenge and difficulty."
The Church of Scotland has a long history of receiving and supporting refugees and leads the multifaith partnership, Scottish Faiths Action for Refugees.
Congregations and individuals have raised more than £408,000 to help support the Ukrainian Church and churches in surrounding countries to help people seeking refuge from the war.
Congregations across the Church have opened their doors to welcome Ukrainians who have settled in their community including Park Parish Church in Giffnock, East Renfrewshire which hosts a weekly welcome hub.
Next Wednesday, a free celebratory concert is being held at Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church at 7.45pm to mark the 31st year of the Independence of Ukraine.
It has been organised by the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (Glasgow branch) and will feature Oksana Mavrodii, a professional opera singer/musician who is originally from Ukraine and has been living in Scotland for 17-years, and all are welcome.
Rt Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, is expected to be there.
Yevgen Gorash,head of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (Glasgow branch) said: "This year we mark the Independence Day of Ukraine with a heavy heart as we are forced to watch our beloved country being subjected to brutal acts of terrorism and aggression, seeing lives lost and futures destroyed.
"However, we as Ukrainians feel a great sense of pride and hope.
"We see brave men and women fighting for our freedom, we see people come together to support one another and we see our neighbours extend a helping hand.
"Please join us for the evening of music and a photographic exhibition to celebrate our culture and show your support."
Eileen Bishop, Session Clerk of Kelvinside Hillhead Parish Church, said members are delighted to be involved in the two joint projects with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.
"Through them, we are able to offer to those who have been forced to flee their native country, as a result of a brutal and unjust war, safe and welcoming spaces where they can socialise and worship together," she explained.
"There was no hesitation on our part to respond to this call for it is important to us that we use our buildings in ways that can offer support to others who are in need of care and love.
"We look forward to our joint services on Sunday and to the celebration concert next Wednesday.
"All are welcome at these events."
Following the concert, people are invited to make donations which will be used to support people affected by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.