Reached by telephone by the Information Service of the Conference of Italian Bishops (SIR), Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas confirmed his desire to remain at the nunciature in Kyiv, Ukraine, in order to remain close to Christians, and to bear witness to the presence of the Church in a city under siege.
While almost all of the chancelleries have decided to move their embassies further west, in the face of the advance of the Russian offensive, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas intends to remain as close as possible to those who are suffering.
When asked why such a choice, the prelate replies: “Because we are not just an embassy. Here, I represent the pope in Ukraine, but also [the pope] close to the people. . . . I not only have the possibility but also the duty to be close to the people. So my place is here.”
A presence all the more courageous as the situation continues to deteriorate in the Ukrainian capital: the nuncio, in the company of a small staff, two co-workers, and a few religious, managed to accumulate some food before the siege of the city began.
“We should have food and water for a while, but certainly not for very long. The problem of a serious humanitarian crisis is already emerging for some and over the days it will spread to the whole city of Kyiv, as well as to Kharkiv, Odessa, Mariupol, and Kherson, where the situation is similar,” warns Kulbokas.
Beyond the food problems, the bombings radically changed life at the nunciature: “to be able to rest, we have identified the places that we consider relatively more protected than others, in the event of a missile attack . So we sleep on the mattresses that we have placed in certain places, on the floor. We also celebrate Mass in the place that seems safest to us,” specifies the prelate.
Lucid, the nuncio recognizes that if “we see that it is humanly impossible to stay, the question (of leaving) may arise, but for the moment we are not moving,” because being here, “we can feel the tragedy of those who suffer from gunshots, cold, danger, wounds, and even death.”
And Archbishop Kulbokas concluded with a reference to the great means at his disposal: “prayer which unites us to God and makes us in Him become brothers again, attentive to one another, united, merciful, just, correct, full of respect and love. And when God sees us like this, He cannot remain indifferent and not give us peace as a gift.”