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Vatican cardinal to make charity mission to Ukraine city hit by Russian drones

Black smoke billows over the city after drone strikes in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Sept. 19, 2023, amid Russia’s military invasion on Ukraine. Drones attacked Ukraine’s western city of Lviv early on Sept. 19, and explosions rang out, causing a warehouse fire and wounding at least one person. / Credit: YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP via Getty Images

Vatican City, Sep 20, 2023 / 12:29 pm (CNA).

The head of the Vatican’s charity office is traveling to Ukraine to inaugurate a new home for displaced mothers and children in Lviv days after a warehouse containing aid burned to the ground following a Russian strike.

According to a Sept. 20 press release from the Dicastery for the Service of Charity, papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski is in Ukraine this week to open the House of Refuge “in the name of Pope Francis, as a sign of support and closeness to the many people who were forced to flee because of the conflict, bringing the apostolic blessing.”

The shelter was built during the conflict with Russia and financed in part by the Vatican. It will provide temporary housing to women who have fled the bombing in other parts of Ukraine.

The visit follows Russian attacks in Ukraine that killed nine people Sept. 19, according to Reuters. In Lviv, a drone strike set on fire several industrial warehouses, including a warehouse used by the Catholic charity Caritas-Spes to store humanitarian aid.

The secretary general of Caritas Internationalis, Alistair Dutton, said the attack destroyed more than 330 tons of humanitarian aid for Ukrainians.

“The mission’s employees were unharmed,” the head of Caritas-Spes Ukraine, Father Vyacheslav Grynevych, said, “but the warehouse with everything inside burned to the ground including food, hygiene kits, generators, and clothes.” 

“We will be able to calculate the final details of the losses later, as special services are currently working at the scene. We already know that 33 pallets of food packages, 10 pallets of hygiene kits and canned food, 10 pallets of generators and clothes were destroyed,” the priest said, according to a press release from Caritas Internationalis.

Dutton is in New York this week to attend the U.N. General Assembly at which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke Tuesday.

The Caritas-Spes warehouse served as a place to store aid from other countries, including Caritas Poland, before it was transported to families in eastern Ukraine.

The Caritas-Spes warehouse has also been used as a deposit for supplies, including generators, donated to Ukraine by Pope Francis through the Vatican’s charity office.

“I am sorrowful for what happened in Lviv with the attack on the warehouse of Caritas-Spes,” Krajewski said. “They struck to destroy the possibility of helping people who are suffering.”

In a message to Cardinal Peter Turkson on Sept. 19, Pope Francis denounced “the use in contemporary warfare of so-called ‘conventional weapons,’ which should be used for defensive purposes only and not directed to civilian targets.”

The pope’s message, dated Sept. 12, was sent to the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the occasion of a Sept. 19-20 conference on Pacem in Terris, St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical on peace.

“It is my hope that sustained reflection on this issue will lead to a consensus that such weapons, with their immense destructive power, will not be employed in a way that foreseeably causes ‘superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering,’ to use the words of the St. Petersburg Declaration,” Francis said.

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