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Return of the warrior-priest: 'Be ready ... to sacrifice our lives'

The leader of the Ukrainian-Rite Catholic Church has publicly called on his countrymen not only to support the nation and her armed forces in the face of the Russian armed excursion onto sovereign Ukrainian soil, but to also be ready to "sacrifice our lives," as reported by the religious-centric news portal Catholic Culture on Mar. 3, 2014.

Ukrainian Marines prepare for war.
Ukrainian Marines prepare for war.
Ukrainian Ministry of Defence - public domain.

The leader of the largest of the 20+ Eastern-Rite Churches in communion with the Latin-Rite (Roman) Catholic Church, His Beatitude Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (also referred to as simply the "Ukrainian-Rite Catholics") took to the country's television airwaves exhorting the people: "we must stand up for our country" as well as "be ready, if necessary, to sacrifice our lives in order to protect the sovereign, free, independent, and unified state."

Reminiscent of the 11th century call from Pope Urban II to free the Holy Land from Muslim occupation with the pronouncement of "Deus vult" (God wills it), 43-year-old Archbishop Shevchuk also didn't mince words as to who exactly the invaders are:

The entire world community is on the side of Ukraine, as Russia is the aggressor.

During the last three months, the Church, especially the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, was with its people. And it will continue to remain with its people.

If, God forbid, we will have to stand together on the battlefield with our soldiers, with our army, the Ukrainian Church, especially the UGCC, is ready to provide pastoral support.

The site of various battles between the Ukrainian people and the Special Forces troops of the pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainian-Rite priests of the Redemptorist Order erected another chapel at Kiev's Independence Square (the Maidan) for use by both Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox believers.

Within the shadow of the massive statue of St. Michael the Archangel, the first chapel was burned to the ground by Yanukovych's troops.