Bishop Mykola took part in the Continental Synodal Assembly in Oceania in Suva, Fiji from 5 to 10 February. The Assembly was convened by the Federation of Catholic Bishop’s Conferences of Oceania (FCBCO), which includes the bishoprics of New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and the Pacific Region. The synodal process is led by an Executive Committee of eight bishops, a five-member Theological Working Group, and a nine-member Task Force, in close partnership with the FCBCO headquarters in Suva. The bishops meet every four years for an Assembly; the themes of this year’s gathering were Communion, Participation and Mission.

Bishop Mykola shared his first impressions of Fiji: “When I went through passport control at the local airport in Fiji, the officer reacted with great interest when he saw that I had a Ukrainian passport. Later, I asked him if he had met Ukrainians here since the war began; he answered in the affirmative. Local bishops, particularly those from Papua New Guinea, also answered this question in the affirmative. Moreover, I learned that they had invited Ukrainians to the conference in order to talk about what is happening in Ukraine. It fills me with joy to hear that our people can be found even on distant islands, even if only in small numbers.” 

The official opening of the Assembly began with a Hierarchical Mass presided over by Cardinal Michael Czerny and concelebrated by approximately 70 bishops. In attendance were numerous clergy and parishioners of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Christ. Following the Mass, residents officially greeted the bishops with dances and songs.

Each day of the Assembly began at 7am with Mass during which the bishops prayed for peace in Ukraine. This was followed by working group meetings which lasted until almost 7pm. By the end of the Assembly, a synodal document was produced to be sent to Pope Francis. In addition, the bishops visited local parishes to celebrate Mass. One of these Masses was attended by nearly 1,000 faithful. 

On Wednesday 8 February, the Assembly welcomed a visit from the Prime Minister of Fiji Sitiveni Rabuka. He appealed to the bishops on various issues, especially the protection of the environment, and encouraged them to remember Fiji in their prayers. Archbishop of Suva Peter Loy Chong, on behalf of all the bishops, thanked the Prime Minister for his visit and assured him that Fiji would be remembered in their prayers. 

On Friday 10 February, Bishop Mykola, on behalf of the UGCC and its faithful, addressed his fellow bishops about the horrors of the war: 

“Dear Brother Bishops, priests, religious and faithful! Today is the 351st day of the war. I want to share with you the pain of my people and my Motherland, which has been suffering from a terrible war for almost a year, defending Ukraine from Russian aggression.

On the 24th of February, Russia began this invasion. I don’t think we imagined that something like this could happen in the 21st century in a supposedly civilised world. People think that this war started on the 24th of February 2022 but it actually started in March 2014 when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula. The world’s reaction to this occupation was almost zero. Russia then launched a war in eastern Ukraine in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The war has been going on for nine years, but the last twelve months have been marked by horrific brutality that we have not seen since World War II.

Russia is not at war with only the armed forces but with the people of Ukraine – constantly shelling cities and villages to cause as many casualties as possible among the civilian population. With such actions, the occupier shows his true face to the entire civilised world.

In revenge for its military losses on the ground, Russia continues terrorising Ukrainian civilians: the past months have been marked by intensive missile and drone attacks committed by Russia against Ukrainian civilians, critical infrastructure, and residential areas.”

Bishop Mykola continued: “Russia’s war against Ukraine is a genocide of our people. The occupier wants to enslave us again as it has been done many times in the history of our people. For centuries, Russia persecuted our intellectual and church life. It is important to remember the Holodomor of 1932-33 in which about 10 million Ukrainians died, 3 million of them children. In the 1940s and 1950s, several million Ukrainians were deported and forcibly resettled to Siberia. The ideologies of Russia’s war against Ukraine openly say that our existence is a historical mistake that must be corrected by death and destruction. This war is against the very right of the Ukrainian people to their history, language, culture, church, their independent state, and ultimately to their existence.

The consequences of this war cannot be fully calculated, but they are horrific: tens of thousands killed, tens of thousands wounded, broken families, one million people forcibly deported to Russia, psychological trauma, social and economic losses. It will take decades to rebuild.”

Bishop Mykola concluded with a request for support and prayer: “Dear Brother Bishops! We, Ukrainians, believe that God is with us in this time of terrible war. I ask the Federation of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Oceania to continue praying for peace in Ukraine in your dioceses. Let us pray together: “Almighty God, hear the supplication of our afflicted hearts for the land and people of Ukraine, as they confront foreign aggression and invasion. Look with grace upon those who courageously defend their land. Remember the mothers and fathers, the innocent children, the widows and orphans, the captured and wounded, the disabled and helpless, those seeking shelter and refuge, mercy and compassion. Bless the hearts of those who have already shown great charity and solidarity in Ukraine’s greatest time of need. Bring us together as your children, your creation, and instil in us your strength, wisdom and understanding. May Your Holy Name be praised and glorified now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.”

Bishop Mykola added that during the war, the clergy had been thinking about how to help our people, how to heal these wounds of war, and how to show them the face of the Merciful Father in this difficult time.

Commenting on the reaction of the Bishops to the appeal about the war in Ukraine, Bishop Mykola stated: “I want to assure you that although our Church is very far away, in the expanses of Oceania, we pray. We also enlist the support of the entire Roman Catholic Church, which is very worried, praying and doing everything possible for the war to end and the long-awaited and just peace to come.”