NEW HAVEN – To aid war-torn Ukraine in the aftermath of an undeclared war waged by Russia, the Knights of Columbus has donated $400,000 for humanitarian relief programs sponsored by the Catholic Church in Ukraine.
The Knights donated $200,000 each to the Greek and Latin Rite Catholic communities of Ukraine for existing relief projects. The outreach programs provide food, shelter, medicine and other aid to homeless children, the elderly, injured soldiers and all refugees caught in the violence.
It is estimated that around one million people have been forced from their homes since the conflict began in mid-2014. Casualties are estimated at more than 5,000 killed and nearly 13,000
wounded, according to the European Commission. A cease-fire was declared in the region on Feb. 15. Refugees have fled from the eastern war zone to the west, looking for refuge in the capital city of Kiev.
In making the gift, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson noted that while the conflict is typically discussed in military and geopolitical terms, “the most vulnerable and marginalized – the young and old, the poor, the sick and the increasing number of refugee families” are often overlooked.
“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,” he said.
In a press release announcing the gift, the Knights noted that Pope Francis assured the Latin and Greek Bishops of Ukraine during their Feb. 20 ad limina visit to Rome that “the Holy See is at your side,” and urged them “to be attentive and considerate to the poor.”
The donations from the Knights were sent to Ukrainian Greek Catholic Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and Roman Catholic Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki.
“It’s an extremely generous and much-needed donation,” said Bishop Peter Paul Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Diocese of Stamford, who expressed his gratitude on behalf of the Ukrainian people.
“There’s a lot of suffering people who are in need of humanitarian aid – not only those who have lost homes, but wives and children of injured soldiers and those who were killed,” he said.
He noted that in Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, “There is no social safety net. There is no one to take care of these people – no welfare, no government aid. They’re left to their own defenses. So it’s up to organizations like the church to take up the slack and help.
“The donation by the Knights goes a long way toward this need,” he continued. “When people have nothing and there’s nobody to turn to, even one dollar is meaningful. Now, with $400,000, that is extremely meaningful to the people who will receive help.”
The Knights of Columbus currently has seven councils with 300 members in Ukraine. The fraternal organization began its work there in 2005 at the invitation of church leadership, and established a formal presence in 2013.
Founded in 1882 by Venerable Father Michael J. McGivney, the fraternal organization has 1.8 million members worldwide, who, in 2013 alone, donated more than $170 million along with more than 70 million hours of charitable service.