Responding to the War in Ukraine

Even before the eruption of all-out war in Ukraine, Catholic faithful worldwide had been calling for an easing of tensions and had been praying for peace to prevail, especially as Russia amassed its troops in border areas and launched joint military maneuvers in neighboring Belarus in January of 2022.

Hostilities had been worsening for some time, and the eastern oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as the Donbas, had been locked in a quagmire of conflict since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. At that same time, the easternmost parts of the Donbas declared themselves independent from Ukraine, as Russia-leaning statelets with almost no international recognition. Efforts at diplomacy culminated in several iterations of peace agreements, but none of them, known as the Minsk agreements, was ever fully implemented nor respected.

Responding to the War in Ukraine
Praying Against the Worst
During the Angelus prayer on 23 January, Pope Francis said, “I am following with concern the increase of tensions that threaten to inflict a new blow to the peace in Ukraine, and call into question the security of the European continent, with wider repercussions.”
Burial of the remains of 13 unidentified and two identified people who were killed in the Bucha district. ©Mikhail Palinchak/
Burial of the remains of 13 unidentified and two identified people who were killed in the Bucha district. ©Mikhail Palinchak/
A Nightmare Come True
As of January 2023, almost one year later, there are 7.9 million Ukrainians registered in neighboring countries, and 6.5 million people remaining displaced within Ukraine, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the UN migration agency, IOM, respectively. The vast majority of the internally displaced people – mostly women and children – moved to the west to safety.

Local communities are the frontline responders in any humanitarian emergency. Catholic structures and religious institutes, including seminaries, monasteries convents, churches and Catholic schools – and the Catholic priests, religious Brothers and  Sisters who manage these – opened their doors wide, taking in as many people as they could possibly support.

ICMC Convening Efforts To Coordinate Church Responses to the War in Ukraine 
Photo: A member of a Catholic organization helps refugees board busses at the Polish-Ukrainian border. ©Pakking Leung via Wikimedia Commons
The Catholic Response for Ukraine (CR4U) Working Group
In response, and at the encouragement of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, ICMC came together with other Catholic-inspired organizations and agencies working in Ukraine and surrounding countries to respond to the massive movements of people within Ukraine and beyond its borders. This Catholic Response for Ukraine working group, as it is now called, or CR4U, has since been involved in coordinating the response of various actors on the ground and with global partners.

The CR4U Working Group is comprised of the following members:

The main areas of activity of the working group include: information sharing, advocacy, humanitarian response, communications and support to the clergy and religious who are on the ground and find themselves working as frontline responders, sometimes with little preparation and no respite.

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ICMC Responds in Ukraine
Catholic Bishops’ Conferences worldwide have echoed the calls of the Holy Father, joining in prayer and fasting to bring a return to peace in Ukraine. In addition, the Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, traveled to Ukraine in July of 2022 with programming staff to see firsthand the situation of people displaced by the war in Ukraine.

ICMC has since identified needs that were not being addressed or sufficiently addressed in Ukraine, and has designed programming with partners to fill those gaps. One of ICMC’s key Catholic funding partners in the United States, GHR Foundation, also recently created an emergency fund managed by ICMC, to respond specifically to emergency situations not just in Ukraine, but any humanitarian emergency where a need exists – especially those that are somehow being neglected or falling through the cracks in the humanitarian sector’s response.

The projects funded by ICMC in Ukraine include:

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Support to seminarians and clergy,
so that they are better prepared in their pastoral ministry and have strengthened capacities in psychology and psychological support, so that they can better guide people who are coming to them with major trauma. Since the beginning of war, the clergy has seen an increased demand for counseling for faithful with complex trauma issues.
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Shelter support in the diocese of Ivano-Frankivsk,
which has various monasteries, seminaries, convents and other religious infrastructure, where thousands of displaced people – mostly women, children and some elderly if they were physically able to flee – have been sheltering since the war erupted.
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Emergency cash for food and medicines,
to fill gaps in supplies being received. Again with support of GHR Foundation, ICMC was able to is support local purchases of specific food items and medical supplies, which were not normally being supplied via humanitarian shipments into Ukraine.
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A man and woman saying goodbye on the Ukrainian border with Slovakia, February 2022, ©Yanosh Nemesh/
Mental health and psychosocial support,
in the town of Chortkiv, in Ternopil oblast, the local church will be able to continue funding the salaries of six psychologists for six months, to prevent a discontinuation of the service. The funding will ensure psychological counseling services for some 500 displaced people sheltering there, as well as for the vulnerable local children, many with cognitive disabilities, who were already receiving care at the “House of Mercy” rehabilitation center prior to the war. The funding amounts to $12,600 to ensure services continue for a period of three months.
Mother and Child Room at Lviv Railway Station, ©Sodel Vladyslav/
Mother and Child Room at Lviv Railway Station, ©Sodel Vladyslav/
Mental health and psychosocial support for children,
in the town of Ternopil, the local parish has been supplying food, medicines and material needs, but it became apparent quickly that the children needed more. The ‘Invisible Wounds of War’ project will support paying salaries for psychologists and social workers, and the parish sourced Hibuki stuffed dogs to help children develop coping mechanisms when they feel anxious, scared or sad.


Some 13 million people remain uprooted from their homes. They still need your help to survive.

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ICMC provides assistance and protection to vulnerable people on the move and advocates for sustainable solutions for refugees and migrants.