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Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s Easter message: Ukraine a symbol of hope, resiliency

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Just by coincidence, a thoughtful friend just sent me a collection of music and song entitled “Wartime Memories,” kindly noting that my late Dad and my just-deceased Mom were part of that “greatest generation,” and that Dad served the Navy during World War II in the horror of the Pacific.

Sure enough, as I listen to them, I can recall with crystal clarity being a kid and hearing my father and mother singing along, listening to these memorable tunes.

What surprised me is how all these songs, while written and recorded in the anguish, threat, separation, loss, shortages, wounds, and death of those war years, were ripe with hope and confidence!

Poets, philosophers and artists have long saluted the resilience of the human spirit as deep in our make-up, pointing to an innate trust in the Lord, who unfailingly sees us through.

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We sure need this now, especially with division and worries here at home, and tensions in the world.

Ukraine stands out. In the face of a vicious assault, the people of Ukraine are one, coming together to resist, defend, and remain hopeful.

They’ve had, sadly, a lot of practice. In the reign of terror during their oppression by Stalin, Jews and Christians in Ukraine were brutally persecuted. The Ukrainian Catholic Church, for instance, saw 90% of their faithful clergy and nuns shot, or exiled to Siberia, while synagogues and churches were confiscated or torched, and people loyal to their faith were starved and wiped out.

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Worshippers pray during a Sunday mass at Saints Peter and Paul Garrison Catholic Church in Lviv, Ukraine on March 27, 2022.
AFP via Getty Images

Yet, when freedom came in 1990, these courageous Jews and Christians rebuilt, revived, and restored, such that Ukraine became a classroom of democracy, religious freedom, education, and promotion of justice based on biblical teaching, a “light to the world.”  A few years ago, I was honored to participate in the dedication of the new Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in Kyiv, which they so fittingly named the Cathedral of the Resurrection, reflecting their deep and abiding belief in the power of faith. 

Is it any wonder that Ukrainian leaders now, such as the Jewish President, Volodymyr Zelensky, and the Ukrainian Catholic Patriarch, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, both with targets on their chest, rally a people united in faith, values, family and a vibrant culture? No wonder the world has come together to advocate, pray for, and help a Ukraine under siege.

Closer to home we see the same confidence and trust in the future as our great City and nation slowly but surely continue their recovery from the Covid pandemic.  It’s there as neighborhoods and communities in Louisiana, Texas, and Alabama recover and rebuild following tornadoes and other severe storms. And, sadly, we have far too often witnessed such trust in the future as communities rally together following another senseless shooting.  

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Ukrainian delegation from Kyiv wrapped in Ukrainian flags pray at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, April 1, 2022.
Ukrainian delegation from Kyiv wrapped in Ukrainian flags prays at the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray in Jerusalem’s Old City, on April 1, 2022.
AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean

This resilience and hope happens to be the message of these holy days observed by Jews, Christians and Islam.

Our Jewish neighbors come together for Passover, recalling the Lord’s liberation of His people from slavery and oppression in Egypt, and then deliverance to Israel. 

We Christians revere the paschal mystery of Jesus this Holy Weekas the Lord “passes over” from brutal, unjust suffering and death, to resurrection and new life at Easter.

Passover
The holy days observed by Jews, Christians and Muslims offer a message of resilience and hope.
EPA

Our Islamic community observes Ramadan, with fasting and prayer, recalling Allah’s fidelity and mercy.

These three religious observances take place on nature’s stage of Spring, with the darkness and bleakness of winter fading into the promise, light, and life of Spring. Hope conquers fear! Light dispels darkness! Life will always triumph over death!

Seems like the resilience and renewal of those wartime tunes from 1940-45, which I was listening to as I wrote this column, are not just memories, but eternal!

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