PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York made a surprise visit to the Ukrainian city of Lviv Sunday night to meet with Ukrainian refugees and the Catholic agencies helping them.
“I wanted to go to Ukraine from the beginning,” Cardinal Dolan said in a social media video posted Monday morning. “We just want to do anything we can to show solidarity with these people.”
The western Ukraine city has taken in hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Ukrainian refugees since the Russian invasion began. The city is also home to the Ukrainian Catholic University, which has been on the front lines of relief efforts, providing housing and supplies to the displaced, as well as support for journalists and relief agencies.
The visit, part of Cardinal Dolan’s trip to countries bordering Ukraine since he left Rome on April 28, included stops in multiple cities in Poland and Slovakia.
“I wanted to see the refugees who were in the border countries … We wanted to see them and to thank them and to love them and see what they need so we can continue to be of help,” Cardinal Dolan said in the video. “We wanted to thank them for their sense of hope that they haven’t lost that confidence and that trust in Jesus.”
Cardinal Dolan posted another video earlier on Monday from Przemyśl, Poland — the closest city to the Ukrainian border, which Cardinal Dolan said is the first stop for many o Ukrainian refugees who fled Russian aggression. He applauded the efforts the city of about 65,000 people took in caring for their Ukrainian neighbors, noting the 600 lunches and 8,000 tons of food that have been served and distributed.
“You know what gets me, though? There’s a sense of normalcy here,” Cardinal Dolan said. “It’s like people haven’t panicked. They’re not frantic. They’re just coming together in serenity and trust in helping one another. I’ve just been amazed and inspired.”
In another video posted on Sunday, Cardinal Dolan highlights the efforts by a family near the Ukrainian border to turn their hotel into a depot for food and supplies that get shipped across the border daily by the Knights of Malta. He notes that the supplies go directly to priests, convents, and schools for distribution.
“The closer to the ground you are the more you’re able to assist people, and there’s nobody closer than the Church,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Cardinal Dolan’s journey started in Krakow, Poland, where he visited a local parish supported by Aid to the Church in Need that has supported Ukrainian refugees, and another stop at a train station in that Polish city, to visit the Polish Malteser Medical Corps and members of the Polish Order of Malta.
He then traveled to Košice, Slovakia, where he met with representatives of the Ukrainian community and volunteers.
Before the visit to Lviv on Sunday, Cardinal Dolan traveled from Slovakia to Kombornia, Poland, to a Malteser International Supply facility where food, medicines, and other supplies are kept for distribution to Ukraine. He got to Przemyśl in the afternoon, where he met with more other refugees and Catholic relief workers.
Today, Cardinal Dolan stopped in Hrebenne, Poland, before going to Warsaw to visit a Knights of Columbus/Catholic Near East Welfare Association mercy center. He concludes his trip tomorrow with a visit to the Caritas Poland offices.