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Ukrainian Welcome Centre is true community outreach, says Eparchial Bishop

Catholic News
Ukrainian Welcome Centre is true community outreach, says Eparchial Bishop

The Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family has opened a Welcome Centre in London in partnership with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain.

Based at the Eparchy’s cathedral near Bond Street in central London, the Centre provides a single point of contact for essential information for arrival, settling and long-term living in the UK.

Bishop Kenneth Novakowski, the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop for the Holy Family of London, talks to us about the new welcome centre and how the Ukrainian community in the UK is working with the government, NGOs and other charities and organisations to help Ukrainians fleeing war in their homeland.



I’m Bishop Kenneth Novakowski, the Ukrainian Catholic Bishop for the Holy Family of London. The shock of the invasion of Ukraine in many ways seemed to almost paralyse people of conscience and goodwill throughout the world in those first few days. Eventually the Ukrainian people started to realise that they had to flee from their homes – to flee from harm’s way – because of the consistent bombings and invasion of their country.

And so in the first several weeks of the invasion we saw a huge migration of people departing their homes and their cities to western Ukraine. More than 7 million, in a very short time, left the country and made their way into the border countries with Ukraine – especially into Poland.

The government of the United Kingdom developed two schemes to receive displaced persons fleeing harm’s way. One was ‘Homes for Ukraine’ and the second was concerned with family reunification.

According to government statistics here in the United Kingdom, 100,000 displaced people from Ukraine have been welcomed into the UK. Very quickly our cathedral of the Holy Family in Exile in central London became the focal point for people wanting to help and for those needing help.

So along with the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family decided to provide a safe place – a place of welcome – for those fleeing and also for those who are sponsoring people who have opened up their homes and their hearts. A place of welcome where we would work closely together with other non-government agencies and governmental agencies to provide information, counselling and even community for those who are fleeing.

We were able to provide fairly large premises in our cathedral dedicated to that goal of providing a place of welcome to our newly-arrived brothers and sisters. This joint venture is true community outreach, and I can’t emphasise enough the co-operation we have had from so many other non-governmental organisations, other religious communities and the government.

In the area of pastoral care and concern for not only those who are arriving but for those who feel they want to have a place to pray during the daytime, we have kept our cathedral doors open between 10am and 8pm. This allows people to come in, have a time of prayer and silence – a place where they can come and think about the benefits that we have here in the United Kingdom. They can say a prayer and light a candle – for those who have died in defending Ukraine, for those who are fleeing and for those who are helping those that have arrived here. As this war continues we can become desensitised to the horror that the war is bringing to Ukrainian people but the reality is that the war is still going on. People are still losing their lives, their homes, their businesses.

Here in the UK, through the work of so many people, we are providing a place that is safe allowing people to keep their dignity. It’s a place of welcome from which I continue to ask for people to pray for peace in Ukraine or those who are helping in the various charity organisations working in Poland, Ukraine, and all the other border countries – especially organisations like CAFOD, Caritas Ukraine, Caritas Internationalis and for all of those volunteers who every day are providing care and kindness to those fleeing harm’s way.