Dhe Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed hope at Easter that there would be peace in Ukraine in a year’s time. In his video message distributed on Sunday evening, Zelenskyj expressed confidence that prayers for peace would be heard. Every Christian holiday teaches its country that evil can be conquered. “We are bringing evil’s defeat closer.” Russia’s war of aggression against its country has been going on for more than 13 months.
Many Christians in Ukraine celebrated Easter on Sunday. However, large parts of the population follow the old calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church, which celebrates the festival next Sunday. Zelenskyy complained that Russia had marked Palm Sunday – on which many Orthodox Christians celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem – with new rocket attacks against Ukraine.
According to the president, a rocket hit a residential building in the city of Zaporizhia in southern Ukraine. A man and an 11-year-old girl were killed. “This is how a terrorist state spends Palm Sunday,” Zelensky said. “In this way, Russia is placing itself in even greater isolation from the world and from humanity.”
The head of the presidential office in Kiev, Andriy Yermak, published a photo of the smashed house on Telegram. He called the attackers “common animals”. Russia has annexed the Zaporizhia region but does not control the regional capital.
Yermak and other members of the Ukrainian leadership wished Happy Easter to Ukrainians who, like Christians in the West, were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Army Valeriy Zalushnyi said the holiday also symbolizes the victory of life over death. Zalushny thanked the Western allies supporting Ukraine with arms and ammunition “helping us to bring victory and the triumph of justice closer with each passing day”.
Traditionally, Orthodox Christians in Ukraine celebrated church holidays in the same way as in neighboring Russia. With the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, the public discussion intensified that the church calendar should also be changed from Russia.
Pope calls for peace at Easter
At the climax of the Easter celebrations, Pope Francis used his traditional Easter message in St. Peter’s Square to make an urgent appeal for peace. “Let’s hurry to walk paths of peace and brotherhood,” said the head of the Catholic Church on Sunday in front of around 100,000 believers in the forecourt of St. Peter’s Basilica. The wars and suffering in the world shaped the entire Easter festival in the Vatican.
On the most important holiday of the Catholic Church, the 86-year-old Francis appealed to trust “between individuals, between peoples and nations”. The message of Easter, when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his death on the cross, is intended to illuminate the darkness in which, according to the pontiff, the world is often shrouded.
Visibly moved, Pope Francis recalled the war in Ukraine in particular: “Help the beloved Ukrainian people on the path to peace and pour your Easter light over the Russian people. Comfort the wounded and those who have lost loved ones in the war, and allow the prisoners to return safely to their families.” He called on the international community to work to end this war and all conflicts that “bring the world with stain blood”.
Controversial Station of the Cross
Even at the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday in the Colosseum, the focus was on refugees, victims of all kinds of violence and people at war. They spoke with messages of peace and reconciliation. For example, the messages of peace were read out by two young people from Ukraine and Russia. A similar gesture caused controversy last year. Criticism was not long in coming this year either: the Ukrainian Ambassador to the Holy See sharply criticized the text by the Russian youth.
The two reported on their experiences with a view to the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian youth told how he fled to Italy before the war. In his message, the Russian called for prayer: “Jesus, please, make the whole world peaceful and that we can all be brothers and sisters.”
Easter marches against the war in Ukraine are again taking place in numerous German cities this Easter Monday. Meanwhile, hostilities continue in eastern Ukraine in the Donetsk region, especially around the town of Bakhmut. Western experts also believe that the strategically important city is in danger of falling. However, the Ukrainian leadership has ordered everything to be done to prevent the city from being taken by Russian troops.