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Zelenskyy Honors Catholic Bishop Serving Ukrainians in the US for ‘Spiritual Battle’

Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia receives the Cross of Ivan Mazepa from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sept. 21. The Cross of Ivan Mazepa is an award of the President of Ukraine, established to honor citizens for a significant contribution to the revival of the national cultural-artistic, spiritual, architectural, military-historical heritage, merits in state-building, diplomatic, humanistic, scientific, educational, and charitable activities. (Photo: Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia.)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — As part of an address to honor those who have shown unwavering support of Ukraine throughout the war, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy honored Metropolitan Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia on Thursday with a presidential award.

The honor Archbishop Gudziak received was the Cross of Ivan Mazepa, an award of the President of Ukraine, established to honor citizens for a significant contribution to the revival of Ukraine’s cultural, artistic, spiritual, architectural, military, and historical heritage, as well as merits in state-building, diplomatic, humanistic, scientific, educational, and charitable activities.

Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska, said she has “the honor of knowing” Archbishop Gudziak personally, and highlighted he is known to thousands of other Ukrainains as well — “soldiers, displaced persons, and many others whom he helps, and young people who thank to him get a great education.”

In addition to being the highest-ranking Ukrainian prelate in the United States, Archbishop Gudziak is the president of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv, Ukraine, which has been a hub of volunteer aid throughout the war. During the conflict, it has helped with housing and feeding internally displaced people, supporting hospitals, organizing therapy programs, and helping international journalists with logistics.

Of being honored by Zelenskyy, Archbishop Gudziak said the recognition “honors the work of the Church in the United States and the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv and their shared commitment to peace, justice, and security.” He noted, however, that the whole civil society in Ukraine deserves the recognition.

“Together, with so many selfless people, during a genocidal war, we try to pray, inform, advocate, and help, here in the United States, in Ukraine, and internationally,” Gudziak said in a Sept. 22 statement.

“Who truly deserves recognition? Civil society in Ukraine, over 50,000 who have given their lives for the defense of human dignity, freedom, and justice,” Archbishop Gudziak continued. “Close to 200,000 have been maimed or injured. They have made a heroic, even ultimate, sacrifice. Their contribution is beyond recognition here on Earth. Only God can fathom the depths of their merit.”

More broadly, Zelenska thanked all those who “fight together” with Ukraine in the spiritual dimension.

“The defense conducted by Ukraine is a protection of values, such as a right to life and personality. These are not only physical things, but also intangible values,” Zelenska said.

“The defenders of Ukraine are very different people of different views, beliefs, or not religious at all, but they all clearly feel they are fighting against evil, against the worst that might be born within a human — a conscious effort to kill, destroy, grab, and enslave,” she said. “Therefore, it is also a spiritual battle. Sincere gratitude to everyone who fights together with us in the spiritual dimension and dimension of values.”

The address from Zelenska and Zelenskyy on Sept. 21 was part of a visit to the National Archives, where Zelenskyy honored a host of individuals for “significant contribution to strengthening interstate cooperation, support of state sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and popularization of the Ukrainian state in the world.”

Through his address, Zelenskyy thanked many for their unwavering support.

“Today there are different people here — doctors, soldiers, politicians, businessmen, adults, children, Ukranians, Americans, and there is not a single soul here today who would not care what happens to freedom, and there is not a soul in Ukraine that does not feel gratitude to you, America, to you the people who help us not because you have to, but because your heart cannot let you do otherwise,” Zelenskyy said. “Thank you.”

Aside from honoring those who have supported Ukraine, Zelenskyy used the address to emphasize the significance of the aid the United States has provided, and Ukraine’s unwavering commitment to defending its freedom, and that of the entire world from Russia. He referenced a telegram President Abraham Lincoln sent to General Ulysses S. Grant in 1864, where Lincoln told Grant to “hold on with a bulldog grip, and chew and choke as much as possible,” to illustrate the Ukrainian mindset.

“President Lincoln’s words reflect the courage and faith that helped America. Such words reflect exactly how Ukranians fight,” Zelenskyy said. “In our battle for every inch of Ukrainian land, every day of this war, Ukrainian soldiers hold on with the grip of a bulldog.

“They chew and choke the Russian occupiers as much as possible,” he continued. “Never before has the Russian dictatorship met such strong resistance and never again will Russia manage to destroy another nation.”

Zelenskyy arrived in the U.S. on Tuesday, Sept. 19. He first attended the U.N. General Assembly and visited with wounded Ukrainian soldiers in New York. At the U.N. General Assembly, he urged global cooperation against Russia’s aggression, issuing a warning in the process that “many seats in the General Assembly hall may become empty if Russia succeeds with its treachery and aggression.”

After his visit in New York, Zelenskyy traveled to Washington, where he met with President Joe Biden and appealed to lawmakers and Biden administration officials for more assistance. After Biden and Zelenskyy met, Biden announced a new $325 million aid package to Ukraine that focuses on security assistance, providing air defense capabilities, cluster munitions, and more anti-tank weapons.

“With the days beginning to turn colder, Russia once more looks to use winter as a weapon against people in Ukraine,” Biden said of the aid package. “As I discussed with President Zelenskyy, the people of Ukraine are steeled for this struggle ahead, and the United States is going to continue to stand with you.”