The following is an interview with Fr. Bogdan Vytrykush of the Society of Saint Josaphat (SSJK), a fraternity of traditional Ukrainian Greek Catholic priests associated with the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). It was conducted by the author of The Okie Traditionalist blog and with the blessing of Fr. Vytrykush's superior. The original interview, along with the interviewer's commentary, is available online here. We wish to thank the interviewer for permission to reproduce this interview. Minor stylistic edits have been made throughout, but the conversational style of the interview has been retained.
Since its founding in 2000, the SSJK has been strongly affiliated with the SSPX. In addition to supplying spiritiual and material support, the Society's bishops have ordained numerous priests for the SSJK over the years. In February, SSPX Superior General Davide Pagliarani issued a statement asking for prayers for Ukraine on behalf of the SSJK.
I want to thank you once again for your request about this interview. Your questions, directed to our society as traditional Ukrainian priests shows your open position: trying to estimate the current war, objectively related to it events (from different points of view). I understand your concern about the risk of Word War III, but for the Ukrainian people a big terrible war is already running for more than two months.
Our people are dying, our cities are being destroyed, about 10 million people left their homes and moved inside of our country and abroad. Civilians in the occupied territories are being sexually abused and tortured. It is our current reality and the only thing what we can do as a normal people is to defend ourselves. It is normal also after God’s law, natural law. And our people are ready to do it with or without external help. The only question is how many more people will die in the war if we are not helped.
Now I will try to answer on your questions.
1. Can you give some details what it is like for you the priests, the sisters, and the faithful attached to you, what you are experiencing “on the ground level,” in the middle of this war? In terms of risk to life, property, food shortages, fear of world war, etc. That is, can you describe what you are witnessing these last two months in your location?
Most of the centers of our fraternity, such as the seminary, houses of priests, monasteries of nuns and parishes where we hold our apostolate are located in the western regions of Ukraine. In these areas, thank God, there were no regular war actions, except periodic rocket fire. Fortunately, people's homes in our region have not been destroyed, and missile attacks have been directed at military facilities or infrastructure. But there is always some concern during airstrikes, as missiles often hit homes in other parts of Ukraine.
The western regions of our country have become the refuge for a large number of refugees. A significant number of them live in schools, dormitories of educational institutions, in various church buildings. Our fraternity also received them in our priest homes, monastery and vacant locations. Some of our parishioners receive the families of migrants in their homes. Our faithful make financial donations; bring clothes or food to help refugees.
We also have one small mission in the east of our country, very close to the front line. There were two priests who had to be evacuated due to danger. Some of our faithful from those mission territories came to us in the west, some decided to stay.
Many of our faithful are defending the Motherland in the army, some have already died. Unfortunately, this is an integral part of the war. Our priests constantly celebrate additional Masses and devotions for the people, for the army, for all those who suffered from the war and for all who help them.
So far, there are no food problems in the western regions. Such problems exist in front line locations, because there are problems with delivery. As for food, our country has another problem: it has large grain reserves that Ukraine cannot export through the Black Sea, which is mined by the Russians.
And this is not only an economic problem for us, but also a danger of famine for some countries in Africa and the Middle East, which buy up to 80% of their grain in Ukraine. And this threat is probably more likely than the danger of world war. In addition, the Russians stole some of the grain and illegally export it from the occupied territories. Part of the agricultural land in the eastern regions is unsuitable for cultivation due to military action. There are problems with motor fuel.
The situation is difficult, it is a war, but God is with us and we must trust Him. We thank all the people of good will who support our people and who pray for peace in Ukraine.
2. What serious material needs does your community have right now, that readers can help with, by giving donations?
As I have already mentioned, our society has invited refugees from the Eastern regions in its homes. In total there are about 80 people. The state provides minimal financial assistance to refugees, but due to various difficulties, payments are sometimes delayed. We provide them with housing, help with food. Some people need treatment, some clothes. These are our main needs for the war in the western regions.
In addition, in our mission in the East, a newly built chapel was damaged by shelling, as well as some homes of our faithful. When the war actions end, the chapel will need to be renewed. Some families may need to be helped to restore their homes.
Also in these mission territories we have constant financial difficulties, there are only a few dozen of our faithful there and they are divided into different territories. The priest serves 5 Masses a week in different villages. In addition to the above-mentioned chapel, Masses are held in old houses arranged as chapels. The local faithful keep only these chapels, and they cannot keep enough priests.
We are grateful to all the people of good will who help us. We appreciate every help, material and spiritual: every donation and every prayer, every rosary, and Holy Communion for the intention for peace in Ukraine.
3. Do you have a link for readers to send money?
We have a bank account to which funds can be transferred. But such a decision is not convenient for small donors, as each donor will be forced to pay a commission for international transfers. I have not yet found a convenient payment system that would work with Ukrainian banks. (Editor's Note: See information below.)
4. Do you believe that Francis finally properly consecrated Russia last month, and also the bishops, fulfilling the request of Our Lady of Fatima? The SSPX made a positive statement about it, yet the Fatima Center founded by Fr. Gruner, which the Society itself has collaborated with, stated they did not believe it was properly done. They also said that still there needs to be more devotion first to the First Saturdays penance, and release of the full 3rd secret, before we can expect the “period of peace” is granted by God. Does your community yet have a position?
It is very important for us that this consecration took place. Of course, we do not claim that everything in this act fully complied with the requests of Our Lady. We cannot know exactly how many bishops performed this act with the pope, we see that the text emphasizes that the greatest guilt of people before God is that people cannot live among themselves without war. The text also does not mention the asking for the conversion of Russia. SSPX priests also draw attention to all these points in their comments.
But this act, unlike previous ones, contains a clear mention of Russia and at least the Pope's call for the participation of all bishops. We heard that lot of them responded to him. Therefore, we hope for an answer from heaven. This answer may not be as clear-cut as it would have been if everything had been done properly.
It is possible that Russia's conversion will not happen in the near future. I personally think that our Ukrainian people have already received the first sign of Mary's care. The day after the consecration, March 26th, Russia announced the withdrawal of its troops from three directions: from Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy. And after the crimes of the Russians near Kyiv became known, the Western countries changed their position and began to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons. Who knows, maybe Russia's defeat in this war will be the trigger for its conversion.
We continue to pray on the rosary for our people and for Russia's conversion in order to respond to Mary's request.
5. In addition to the rosary, first Saturday devotion, confession, and communion, can you give spiritual advise how the faithful should prepare spiritually, mentally, and even materially, putting their faith into practical action, for a possible world war?
The best way of course is to prevent a world war. Our Lady said in Fatima that peace will become after conversion of Russia. What can we do to make this happen? We can put such a desire as the intention of our prayers, especially of our rosaries. It is important to make such an intention.
How can you prepare spiritually for war? I'm not sure it's possible to give an exact answer for this question. We can never know in advance what conditions we will find ourselves in when war comes: on the line of fire or in the rear, volunteers or refugees, etc. To participate in a just war means to defend the common good together. It can be defending the Motherland or helping a weaker ally against an unjust aggressor.
I think that "preparing for war" means giving an honest answer to the question: "What benefits can I bring to others in these circumstances and what am I willing to sacrifice for this?" And for this we need to look at how I acted in the past, what motives I was guided by when making decisions on issues of the common good.
I think we need to remind ourselves that the spiritual life of a Catholic is a constant spiritual war. We must overcome enemies such as selfishness, laziness, indifference to God and our neighbors every day. Such trainings are the best preparation; they prepare the ground for God's grace.
We must also always remember that it is our Lord who rules the world. And if Providence allows us a test, the cross, then at the same time sends us a grace that helps to survive it. But in order for God's grace to be effective, we must cooperate with it, that is, we must prepare the soul through the practice of virtues.
God will give courage to a warrior who served faithfully and did not shy away from duty in peacetime. God will help make the best decision for a leader who has always sought the common good of the people, not his own benefit. God will help to become good volunteers only to those people who previously were noticing the needs of others and came to help. God will increase the reparation prayers of those who have practiced them before.
6. Have you read Archbishop Vigano’s declaration on the war in Ukraine? Do you at all agree with it? He criticizes the western globalist elites for provoking war with Russia, for installing a liberal puppet government in Ukraine, to extend the New World Order, that this war really goes back to 2014, etc, while invoking past popes calling for peace and diplomacy. He is essentially outlining how the deep state and deep church have been advancing a modernist agenda throughout Europe to the East.
Before your request I only heard about the position of Archbishop Vigano, but did not read the article you mentioned. Now I have read it carefully. The content of Archishop Vigano's article is simply shocking and it is unacceptable to Ukrainians. And the main reason of this is the absolutely pro-Russian position of the author.
Some events in the life of Ukraine described in the article do not correspond to reality, but only repeat the narratives of Russian propaganda. I don’t want to judge about the intention of the Archbishop and I think he could make one big mistake: looking for the alternative source of information to western media, he totally accepted the Russian point of view. And it seems that by avoiding one extreme, he falls into another. It is very strange that the author is not interested in the opinion of Ukrainians as another alternative source of information.
For example, he could analyze the position of the Catholic bishops of Ukraine. He instead considers Ukrainians only as an object of manipulations by western globalists and that is offensive to us. Our country is not just a battlefield between the United States and Russia, it is a sovereign country with a population of about 40 million people with one of the biggest areas in Europe. And it is our country that was attacked by Russia, and it is our army that spends a war for the freedom of our people.
The article of Archbishop Vigano takes about 20 pages and I can not to give a full adequate commentary to it here. Also, I am not a politician and I do not know many details on the issues under consideration, but I want to clarify some key points of the Archbishop's position.
I do not deny that globalists try to influence Ukrainian politics in various ways. But Russia is doing the same. Russian expansion politics are not better then American globalism for us. Russian media spread disinformation about life in Ukraine, in their country, and all around the world.
This war really started in 2014 and it was started by Russia, which occupied Crimea, then provoked separatist actions in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and supported them by the Russian army. There is not any justification of Russian military intervention in our country. If they wanted to prevent any danger from U.S. or NATO, why did they attack Ukraine instead of Alaska, for example?
The Russian-Ukrainian confrontation did not start in 2014. We have a very long history of conflicts for centuries. Let us remember for example the act of genocide of our people in 1932-1933, when millions of Ukrainians died in the artificial famine.
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church also underwent several stages of liquidation and bloody persecution by the Russian Empire and the communist regime. The last of them lasted in western Ukraine from 1946 to 1989, when our Church existed in deep underground conditions.
There are many more such manifestations of Russian chauvinism. Russia brutally declares that it has a historical right to Ukrainian lands; its propaganda often sound theses that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, that the Ukrainian language is a dialect of Russian, etc.
Why does Archbishop Vigano not mention about Putin’s declaration in Munich 2008, that he considers the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest world’s catastrophe of the 20th century? That declaration means he wants to restore the Soviet Union, to take Ukraine again under control of Russia.
I just want to show here the deep reason of Russian aggression towards Ukraine. Nobody may say that it is only confrontation between Russia and the globalist West, and Ukraine is just a battlefield.
The greatest insult to our people is the accusation of spreading Nazism. I will not refute here the Russian accusations repeated by Archbishop Viganо because it is not possible to do so within the framework of this interview. But the facts of this war show that it was Russian troops who acted like Nazis.
After the liberation from Russian occupancy of such cities as Bucha, Irpin, and Gostomel, hundreds of corpses of civilians were found there with traces of torture, the bodies of raped and killed women who they tried to burn.
On several occasions, the Russians did not allow humanitarian missions to enter Mariupol or other occupied cities to deliver food or evacuate civilians. This army, which came "to save the Russian-speaking population," almost wiped out Mariupol, a city of more than four hundred thousand people, mostly Russian-speaking.
Thanks again for your request.
Let God bless you!
Donations to the Society of Saint Josaphat can be sent to the following account:
Account holder: Bogdan Vytrykush
Routing number: 084009519
Account number: 9600004305606961
Account type: Checking