Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Mauricio Vives
Father Bohdan Maruszak of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Cumming, and Father Volodymyr Petrytsya of Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church, Conyers, from left, lead the community in prayer during the interreligious prayer service for peace in Ukraine at Holy Spirit Church, Atlanta, on March 28.


Atlanta archbishop: War in Ukraine ‘outrageous before almighty God’ 

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published March 31, 2022

ATLANTA—Religious leaders sat together at Holy Spirit Church in Atlanta, listening to prayers for peace, Scripture and condemning the invasion of Ukraine.  

They gave reflections, chanted a prayer for “victory to the faithful over their adversaries,” a Bible reading and sang the Ukrainian national anthem. The leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic churches; a rabbi from American Jewish Committee and the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Atlanta joined together in prayer. 

The interfaith gathering on March 28 comes more than a month after the country was invaded by the Russian military, with devastating bombings of cities and civilians trapped in subway tunnels. An estimated 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled.  

“Those who, only a few weeks ago, were residents are now refugees. The sick and the elderly, babies and young children, are forced underground as life is threatened and homes are destroyed. This is outrageous. It is outrageous before almighty God. It is outrageous before the world,” said Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., speaking to the congregation of nearly 300 people. 

The archbishop was joined by Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III, priests from Eastern Catholic and Latin churches, deacons and members of the Sovereign Military Order of St. John of Jerusalem and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.  

Georgia is home to nearly 15,000 people who trace their heritage to the East European country, according to the 2019 American Community Survey. And just under 12,000 live in the Atlanta region. 

The Orthodox Church is the largest faith tradition in Ukraine. A minority of Christians are Ukranian Catholics, with 4 million members and Pope Francis as the highest religious authority.  

Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., invited the Ukrainian Catholic and Orthodox communities to gather in prayer at Holy Spirit Church. Photo by Mauricio Vives

In addition, there were approximately 350,000 Jews living in Ukraine before the war, according to data collected by Chabad, a prominent Jewish organization. 

In his remarks, Rabbi Scott Colbert, rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanu-El and the American Jewish Committee, Atlanta, shared his family history.  His grandparents fled Ukraine because of Czarist Russia violence targeting Jews.  

“My heritage calls to me because I could be one of those victims of the conflict. I am old. I could be stuck in my apartment,” he said. 

People are asking the age-old question, he said: “God why do you hide your face from us?” However, in hope the prophet Jeremiah told how God will restore the people and gather them again, he said.   

Rabbi Colbert prayed God would “cause peace to reign in the heavens and on the earth.” 

Father Volodymyr Petrytsya, pastor of Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church, Conyers, said people do not have the right to be “indifferent” to the violence “if there is war and people are dying, it is not enough.” The faithful must “pray and work and (God) will accomplish a miracle,” he said.  

War aims have not been met, said Father Bohdan Maruszak, pastor of St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Cumming. Contrary to Russian goals, the war has united the country and the world against the aggression, he said.  

“The evil has to be stopped,” said Father Maruszak.  

For Oleksandra Senko, 40, the emotions caused by the war in her native country have been numbing. The first week was non-stop crying, she said.  

“Every time I checked the news, I hoped it would be better, but it is not,” she said.    

Senko worships at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church. She said she is touched by the support she sees from strangers.  

“I am really grateful. We are not alone,” she said. “We feel supported all across the world with prayers.”  

Stepan and Mariana Kulynii watched the war unfold in their homeland as they cared for their newborn. Stepan’s mother and younger sister fled to Italy, while his father stayed home near the Polish border to care for his grandparents, he said.  

Stepan, 28, said friends in Ukraine will hear how Atlanta’s people of different religious beliefs assisted their country. The support and encouragement lifts people’s spirits, he said.  

“We are far away from our country. There are limited things we can do,” said Mariana, 30. “Most of the time I just cried. It touched the deepest feeling in our hearts,” she said.

Editor’s Note: To view a video of the service, go to