Warsaw, Poland, Feb 25, 2022 / 03:10 am (CNA).
The Catholic Church in Poland is mobilizing to help thousands of Ukrainians seeking refuge in the country following the launch of a full-scale Russian invasion.
Parishes and Church institutions in the Central European country are opening their doors to a stream of refugees crossing the 332-mile border with Ukraine.
Poland’s Catholic bishops have asked priests to inform them of parish facilities that could serve as shelters for refugees or offer other forms of assistance.
Other Church organizations are preparing retreat houses and other buildings to house people fleeing the war.
Jasna Góra, Poland’s largest shrine, is providing space for Ukrainians in its pilgrim house. The sanctuary in Częstochowa, southern Poland, which is home to the venerated icon known as the “Black Madonna,” is offering prayers for Ukraine at its daily Masses.
The BBC reported on Feb. 25 that more than 1,000 Ukrainians have arrived by train in the southern Polish city of Przemyśl. Many spent the night on camp beds at the train station as hotels are fully booked.
The Polish government announced on Feb. 24, the first day of the invasion, that it was opening reception centers along the eastern border with Ukraine. Refugees will not be required to present a negative COVID-19 test or enter quarantine.
Poland, a country of 38 million people that borders both Russia and Ukraine, is already home to an estimated two million Ukrainian workers.
Polish officials believe that up to a million Ukrainians, out of a population of 44 million, could seek refuge in the country.
The president of the Polish Catholic bishops’ conference called on Thursday for all parishes to host prayers for peace “and for the Ukrainians, that the Lord may comfort their hearts in this dramatic situation.”
Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki also asked churches to take collections for refugees after Masses on Sunday, Feb. 27, and Ash Wednesday, March 2.
The funds will be distributed through Caritas Poland, the country’s largest charity, which has so far prepared more than 3,000 beds for refugees. It has also donated 100,000 Polish złotys (around $24,000) in emergency aid and is accepting online donations.
The most urgent needs include food and hygiene supplies, as well as such as mattresses, sleeping bags, blankets, and mobile kitchens. Polish Catholic dioceses are organizing transport for refugees.
Parishes in Poland and Ukraine are also preparing consultation points where refugees, including children, will receive psychological support.
The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) in eastern Poland has promised to provide its students from Ukraine with all possible assistance.
“In view of the current situation on the Ukraine-Russia border and the serious threats it poses, we express our solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” it said in a Feb. 21 statement.
Meanwhile, Polish priests and religious serving in Ukraine are remaining with their flocks. Congregations in Poland are collecting medicine, food, and clothing for aid centers and parishes in Ukraine.
In his Feb. 24 message, Archbishop Gądecki said: “I ask that, in every church and parish in Poland, we make fervent supplications for peace and for the Ukrainians, that the Lord may comfort their hearts in this dramatic situation.”
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