A 27-year-old chaplain in the Ukrainian military feels the hardest thing about his job is dealing with the reality that his country’s heroes are dead and “we have war, massive war.”
Speaking to Premier Christian News, Father Roman Mentukh said that although his main priority is to minister to Ukrainian soldiers, their families and refugees, he also prays for the families of Russian soldiers who have been killed in the war.
“We cannot try to defeat evil with another evil,” he said. “So I am also trying to pray for them and trying to pray for their families.”
Father Mentukh was excited when he was assigned last year to Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Church in Lviv, a city in western Ukraine. The 17th-century church is considered one of the most beautiful religious buildings in Lviv, its Baroque-style architecture modeled on the famous Gesù Cathedral in Rome.
But two months after the Russian invasion, Mentukh has found himself emotionally drained from watching the stream of coffins arriving in the church for one funeral mass after another.
The church filled to capacity over Easter. Priests added additional services so every soldier who wanted to attend mass had the opportunity to do so.
Martin Kuz, an independent journalist who wrote an April 12 cover story, “Notes From a War: Resilience and Anguish in a Ukraine Under Siege,” for the Christian Science Monitor, recently met with Mentukh. Kuz, whose father was a Lviv native who survived the Second World War, asked the priest what guidance he gave to his congregation of soldiers and civilians following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“You don’t know what to tell people,” Mentukh replied, shaking his head. “It is a very difficult test of my faith.”
The priest has offered parishioners simple advice. “It is hard to find the peace in our own hearts in this moment,” he told them. “But let each of us take that feeling and do what we can to help our country.”
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