Ukraine's Way of the Cross: Papal almoner prays at mass grave

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mass graves and the deceased still lying along the roadside became a kind of "Way of the Cross" where Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, and Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, stopped and prayed.

Pope Francis had sent the cardinal to Ukraine to spend Triduum and Easter with the people there as his special envoy.

On the way back to Kyiv from Borodyanka, a town that had been under control of Russian forces, the cardinal and archbishop prayed amid the ruins and bodies of those killed, including by an unmarked mass grave, he told Vatican News April 15.

"We found many dead and a grave with at least 80 people, buried without a name," he said.

The scenes left them speechless, he said, but "Thank goodness there is faith and that this is Holy Week, Good Friday, when we can unite ourselves with the person of Christ and go up with him onto the cross."

"There will be the Sunday of the resurrection," he said, and maybe then God will "explain everything to us with his love and change everything within us too, this bitterness and this suffering that we have been carrying for a few days, but particularly from today."

The cardinal celebrated the Mass of the Lord's Supper April 14 with the foot washing ritual and he delivered a second ambulance to a hospital in Kyiv.

He told the Vatican newspaper April 15 that many doctors and staff thanked the pope for the gift and for being close to the people there and their suffering.

He said the head of the largest cardiological hospital in Kyiv told him that, as doctors, they have to be like the Good Samaritan, which means not just helping wounded Ukrainians -- both civilians and soldiers -- but also Russians.

"A difficult thing for him, to perform procedures with the knowledge that he has men before him who may have killed many people," the cardinal said.

But, he said, the doctor explained to him that this is what it means to be a doctor, a Samaritan and a human being, "despite the bitterness in the heart and the feelings one has inside."

Cardinal Krajewski said the doctor's words were like "pure Gospel: It is difficult, but when we follow it, it is beautiful like spring and everything blooms."

"I learned a lot from this head doctor; it was worth traveling by ambulance for thousands of kilometers" to hear his words, he said.