Prior to the service, Cardinal Vincent Nichols was interviewed for Sky News
Interviewer: Why did the Church leaders decide it was important to have this hour of prayer?
Cardinal Vincent: Well it’s important to understand that we’re meeting in the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, and this is an important centre here, right in the middle of London, where they’re trying to become a focus for the those in need and those who are arriving here. So the place of prayer is important, the prayer itself is important and the wide range of Christian leadership that will be present here this morning is also significant. We are very united in this determination to support the people of Ukraine as they face this terrible evil onslaught.
Interviewer: And this hour of prayer, is it open to the public? Can anyone walk in and join?
Cardinal Vincent: Certainly it’s open to the public and it’s placed now at midday hopefully that some people in their lunch break will come in. There’s been some publicity for it, and this church is always open, and it’s a Catholic Church but it’s a Ukrainian Rite Catholic Church. So the pattern of prayer here is a bit different and that for some people will be a good experience as well. But it’s the fervour, it’s the intensity of the prayer that reflects the horror and intensity of the challenge that we all face.
Interviewer: Have you had any word on how the Catholic community in Ukraine is faring?
Cardinal Vincent: Well that is exactly what Bishop Kenneth here and his staff are very, very much in touch with. And it depends obviously on the different parts of the country in Ukraine. I’m not familiar with the details of every place, but I know that there is a great affinity always between Catholics across the world and we along with everybody else are responding as generously and as rapidly as we can to the appeals for finance, for practical assistance, and for a welcome here. Despite the difficulties involved in getting Ukrainian refugees here that you have been talking about earlier in the programme.
Interviewer: Were you surprised when the Pope himself on Sunday, called for an Easter truce in Ukraine? That he so publicly came out and gave his voice?
Cardinal Vincent: No, I was not at all surprised and I think it’s very important that what he asked for was a truce not a ceasefire. He said we don’t need a ceasefire in which people re-arm themselves, we want a genuine truce, an end to these hostilities so that there’s space for humanity’s needs to come to the fore. And that means people giving way on the stands they might have taken initially, for the good of humanity, for the good of the people of Ukraine, who in some places are suffering the most appalling atrocities as we know day by day.
Interviewer: Exactly, the picture, the footage, the stories they’re so horrific. What would you say to the people who hear you’re holding an hour of prayer and say, well that is a lovely gesture but you need to do more, the Catholic community needs to do more, the global community needs to do more?
Cardinal Vincent: Please don’t misunderstand, that prayer doesn’t excuse us from every other effort. But prayer adds dimensions to these struggles. It gives an inner strength and it opens up a wider horizon. It tells us that the immediate moment and how we respond to it, is not the whole story. It’s a very important part of the story, but prayer generates hope and prayer generates courage and prayer generates solidarity. And those three things hope, courage and solidarity are needed in every practical effort as well.
Interviewer: Cardinal, just before we spoke to you we played a package about refugees trying to get to the UK and some statistics: nearly 80,000 people have applied but only 12,000 have got here. Do you think we as the United Kingdom could and should do more and should have done more?
Cardinal Vincent: I think that’s perfectly clear, that the process is overcomplicated. I know friends of mine have applied and they are experts at filling in forms, and they are very, very frustrated that somehow the promises that were made a couple of weeks ago are not being worked out. Now, I don’t know whether this is to do with incompetence or whether it’s to do with fear and excessive caution. But I think the heart of most people in this country is to say let them come, just let them come. We are ready to receive and welcome and do our best. Of course there has to be prudent caution but that should not be obstructive and this is a time I think, when this system really ought to be reviewed and put into working order.
Prayer for Ukraine
Almighty and Great God, accept our gratitude for your boundless mercy towards us. Hear the supplication of our afflicted hearts for the land and people of Ukraine, as they confront foreign aggression and invasion. Open the eyes of those who have been overtaken by a spirit of deception and violence, that they be horrified by their works. Grant victory over the powers of evil that have arisen and bless Ukraine with your gifts of liberty, peace, tranquillity and good fortune.
We implore you, O Merciful God, look with grace upon those who courageously defend their land. Remember the mothers and fathers, the innocent children, widows and orphans, the disabled and helpless, those seeking shelter and refuge, who reach out to you and to their fellow human beings looking for mercy and compassion. Bless the hearts of those who have already shown great generosity and solidarity, and those who prepare to receive their Ukrainian brothers and sisters in Ukraine’s greatest time of need. Bring us together as your children, your creation, and instil in us your strength, wisdom and understanding. May you be praised and glorified, now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
With thanks to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales