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Cleveland Unites to Pray for Peace

by Dick Russ
More than 1,200 people gathered in downtown Cleveland to pray for peace on
the evening of Saturday 24 February, the second anniversary of the Russian
invasion of Ukraine. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, led by Bishop
Edward C. Malesic, partnered with Bishop Bohdan J. Danylo of the Ukrainian
Catholic Eparchy of St. Josaphat of Parma, Ohio, to welcome faithful from many
churches and denominations from across the Greater Cleveland area.
“Just stop the killing,” pleaded Bishop Danylo, whose local parishes have
welcomed many refugee families over the last 2 years. “I ask everyone to pray,
whatever prayers they say, be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim. Just pray for peace.
People of goodwill are standing for the same principle on which our nation of
America was founded. Freedom.”
Bishop Malesic, whose Diocese covers 8 counties across Northeast Ohio and has
more than 600,000 faithful, made an impassioned plea for peace in his homily to
the overflow crowd gathered in his Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist.
Accompanied by his Auxiliary Bishop Michael Woost, the leader of the Cleveland
Diocese said from the pulpit, “We gather tonight to offer our prayers for the
repose of the souls of those killed in this war, and for healing and recovery for
those who have been maimed.”
As he looked at a children’s choir, which sang hymns in Ukrainian and English, and
noting how many Ukrainian children have been killed, injured, or kidnapped into
Russia, Bishop Malesic said, “All children should be able to sing without fear.
Children should not be caught in the middle of a war.”
The Cleveland Maidan Association, which coordinated the ecumenical prayer
service, has counted more than 410,000 Ukrainians killed or wounded since the
Russian invasion. More than 30,000 of the dead are civilians, including 2,000
children. Physical damage to Ukraine is now estimated are more than half a
trillion U.S. dollars.
Dr. Taras Mahlay, President of the Cleveland Maidan Association, put his career as
a physician in Cleveland on hold when the Russians invaded his family’s homeland.
For two years he has been coordinating medical relief efforts and supplies for
Ukraine and has seen firsthand the carnage inflicted on Ukrainian civilians and
“The injuries now are probably worse than they were before,” he said. “Lives are
being lost. I am doing significantly more now saving lives than when I was working
One of the severely wounded Ukrainian soldiers who is being treated in Cleveland
attended the prayer service and spoke with reporters afterward. “It is very hard
to live just one day during the war, and to describe two years of war is extremely
difficult,” said Ukrainian Army Lt. Myroslav Pylypchuk, who stepped on a Russian
landmine and had to have his leg amputated. “I wish I could go back and be with
my colleagues, but due to the severe nature of my injury, I cannot.”
Also among those praying for peace were Dennis and Marina Serdichenko, who
arrived at the service barely an hour after arriving in Cleveland from their home in
Odessa, Ukraine, where she was a military chaplain.
“It is getting harder and harder, worse and worse,” Serdichenko told reporters
after the 40-minute vigil. “We are actually in great danger. Every day we are
under bombing and rocket attacks. It’s hard, but we work and do everything we
can to stop this evil and have a victory. We really believe that Ukraine will have
freedom, that Ukraine will win.”
At the conclusion of the service, which had the participation of more than two
dozen clergy from Roman and Ukrainian Catholic clergy, along with Ukrainian
Orthodox and Protestant clergy, those gathered were reminded that in addition to
prayers, there are actions they can take to help relieve the suffering of the people
of Ukraine.
“Advocate, organize, raise your voices, visit our legislators,” urged Marta
Liscynesky-Kelleher, President of the United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio.
“May God hasten the day that we all gather to celebrate victory.”
Praying and organizing for support was echoed by Lt. Pylypchuk. “Ukraine
depends to a great extent on the help that is coming from outside,” he stated,
“from the United States, from Europe. Unfortunately, Ukraine is not in a position
to manufacture all the things necessary. The people are exhausted physically and
Bishop Danylo also made a plea for assistance, and encouraged the faithful to
keep praying and working toward steps that could bring an end to the war.
“Please help us to have advocacy to the U.S. government,” he asked. “Right now,
the Europeans are a little faster than us. We are slowing down the latest 60-
billion-dollar aid package for Ukraine. We were the first to help. Ukrainians are
not asking for American Marines or soldiers, or the Air Force to fight for us. We
just need help to fight this giant. We only want the Russians to leave and to let us
live in peace.”