Bishop of Loughborough, the Rt Revd Saju Muthalaly joined a service and vigil at the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Leicester last weekend (Sunday 13 March). Photos below.
You can hear him talk about his plan to attend the service to BBC Radio Leicester along with Wol Wowczuk from the Ukrainian Church on this link (slide the player along to 1 hour 7 minutes in to the show). There was widespread local media coverage about the service and vigil.
Revd James Pickersgill, our Bishops' Chaplain, also attended, said: "It was a very moving experience. Parish priest, the Very Rev Fr David Senyk welcomed us very warmly among the congregation in offering our continued offering of support, solidarity and prayers for all in Ukraine.
"Bishop Saju was asked to share a few words and as well as offering our continued compassion and prayers in the face of the atrocities people are experiencing, he spoke movingly of Jesus as a refugee himself, that he is there amongst the suffering in the world and the gift of God’s Shalom to the world.
"At the end of the service, a stirring rendition of the Ukrainian National Anthem was sung unaccompanied by all. We then all gathered outside for a show of unity, again punctuated with chants of unity for others who are suffering; joined by local community police officers as well as Revd Tom Wilson, Director of the St Philips Centre, and others from different faith communities," said James.
There was extra poignancy to the vigil which was close to a memorial outside the church which commemorates those lost in an earlier genocide against Ukrainians (photo below), and reads:
"In memory of the millions of Ukrainians who died as a result of the Holodomor - the Societ Russian man-made famine and genocide 1932-1933"
The community has gathered 1,200 boxes of supplies which are hopefully going out to Ukraine but they have indicated that the best support from now on is for donations to be given to DEC linked charities. You can see the Christian Aid DEC appeal by clicking here.
At the end of the service, Fr David asked Bishop Saju to offering a blessing, which he did powerfully in the words of the Benedictus:
1 Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel,
who has come to his people and set them free.
2 He has raised up for us a mighty Saviour,
born of the house of his servant David.
3 Through his holy prophets God promised of old
to save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all that hate us,
4 To show mercy to our ancestors,
and to remember his holy covenant.
5 This was the oath God swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
6 Free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
7 And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
8 To give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of all their sins.
9 In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
10 To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.