Pope Francis greeted liquidators from Ukraine and Belarus and representatives of the European Chernobyl solidarity movement in his General Audience in Rome on Wednesday, 20.April 2016: Mentioning the International Conference that has been organized to mark the 30th anniversary of the disaster, Pope Francis said he is “praying for the victims of that disaster while expressing appreciation and gratitude to those who have assisted them and for the initiatives aimed at alleviating their suffering and the damage.”
The main aim of the Pilgrimage as a part of European Action Weeks 2016 “For a Future after Chernobyl and Fukushima” is the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster on 26. April 2016. Pope Francis welcomed the delegation of the Roman Catholic Archbishop from Lviv (Ukraine), Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, and the Roman Catholic Archbishop from Minsk and Mogilev (Belarus), Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, in his speech on St Peter’s Square: “I am with you”.
More than 20 liquidators traveled to the General Audience, those who are working in their countries as head of Chernobyl organizations and as a simple activist for social and medical needs. They are accompanied by representatives of the Ukrainian and Belarusian Church, the European Chernobyl Solidarity Movement from Germany and Italy and the IBB Dortmund, who coordinates these activities. The delegation represents hundreds of thousands of Chernobyl victims and the Chernobyl Solidarity Movement which was created in the early 1990s.
“We are pleased and grateful that Pope Francis draws attention of the whole world to the Chernobyl disaster and to the other problems, because even now, 30 years after explosion we still can feel the consequences,” said Anatoly Gubarev, the Head of Liquidators Association in Kharkiv (Ukraine) in Rome. “Many generations after us will still have to deal with the consequences of this tragedy.”
The pilgrimage was initiated by the churches in Ukraine and Belarus in cooperation with the IBB Dortmund and the History Workshop Chernobyl in Kharkiv. 60 people will take part in the pilgrimage. Among these people are the environmental officers of the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine Volodymyr Sheremeta and Volodymyr Misterman, Pavlo Shvarts as a representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Ukraine, Joachim Sauer the Project Manager of the Catholic Foundation Renovabis, Ljubov Negatina, head of Chernobyl History Workshop in Kharkiv (Ukraine), and other representatives of IBB Dortmund.
Dr. Astrid Sahm, who coordinates the work of the IBB Dortmund in Ukraine, said: “It is an important signal that the churches in Belarus and Ukraine value highly the achievement of the liquidators. We also hope that the issue of Chernobyl takes on a new meaning for practical environmental work of the churches”.
“The appraisal of the Pope is a sign of appreciation for the liquidators and for us an encouragement to continue with our work to learn the lessons from history,” said Peter Junge-Wentrup, Director of IBB Dortmund. “We need to come to an energy transistion in whole Europe.”
After the Pope Audience, the delegation attended a church service in the chapel of St. Maria Maggiore.
Renovabis, the Eastern European Fund of the Catholic Church in Germany, supported the journey to Rome.