Ireland’s churches rally to support Ukrainian people

Religious communities offer rooms in convents and retreat centres to those fleeing

Thirty-six Catholic religious congregations in the State have offered 450 rooms in convents, retreat centres, former student accommodation, and houses for Ukrainian refugees.

The Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland, which represents more than 120 religious congregations, is in talks with the Department of Children and the Irish Refugee Council about its offers.

"We also have had offers to teach English and many religious-run schools have already welcomed Ukrainian children," said David Rose, secretary general of Amri.

Some congregations in the State are also fundraising or sending aid directly to communities on the Ukrainian border, he said: “We are all praying for peace.”

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Many of the Amri congregations have "communities in Ukraine and Poland, and hear first-hand the devastating impact of the war", and have opened up churches, monasteries and convents to welcome refugees.

Last month Catholic bishops said they were in contact with the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to seek advice on how parishes and dioceses could help.

The Church of Ireland Councils is to make the Church of St George and St Thomas in Dublin's city centre available as a hub and cultural centre to help Ukrainian refugees.

The Church of Ireland church on Cathal Brugha St "will become a centre of warmth, welcome and activity for those arriving in Ireland from Ukraine", a spokeswoman said.

Its Dublin and Glendalough dioceses also urged all parishes "to focus on the start of our fundraising drive throughout Holy Week and Easter", she said.

“Funds are needed to upgrade kitchen and restroom facilities in St George and St Thomas’s to ensure they are fit for use by members of the Ukrainian community,” she said.

Launching a Holy Week appeal, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Michael Jackson said it was time to put "despair aside" and welcome the Ukrainian refugees who have "had no choice but to flee their homes".

‘We cannot be morally neutral’

Recalling Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s address to the Houses of the Oireachtas on Wednesday, the archbishop declared: “As Christians we cannot be morally neutral.”

The Church of Ireland has also decided “to sponsor a priest in the Ukrainian Orthodox tradition and in this way to provide pastoral and liturgical ministry to Ukrainians who have come to Ireland as displaced persons”.

The Church's Bishops' Appeal releasing a further €75,000 to Christian Aid and Habitat for Humanity to help in Ukraine and surrounding countries, bringing its aid total to €93,000.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has released €72, 350 (£60,000) to be distributed between its relief and development partners Christian Aid (Ireland) and Tearfund to help the people of Ukraine.

The church's moderator Rev Dr David Bruce launched a Moderator's Appeal to help with the relief effort and called on members across Ireland to give generously. The Methodist Church in Ireland has sent €32, 900 (£27,500) to the United Methodist Church in Poland to support their work with Ukrainian refugees.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times