In 2014, when Russia invaded eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Father Andriy Zelinskyy, a Jesuit priest, was the first military chaplain authorized to enter the war zone. Having first started ministering to Ukrainian troops in 2006, Father Zelinskyy was no stranger to the Ukrainian armed forces and quickly found his place at the front providing pastoral care. Since then, he has spent almost three years in frontline trenches and positions, including combat in the Donbas and near Debaltseve, ministering to soldiers defending their homeland, their humanity, and their lives. As he describes it, Father Zelinskyy’s role is “to protect humanity while dressed in a military uniform.”
Perhaps it is no surprise that his calling led him to minister to the military. Father Zelinskyy’s order, the Society of Jesus, was founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, himself formerly a professional soldier. The onset of the Russo-Ukrainian War expanded the need for military chaplains and again put Father Zelinskyy on the front lines where he, and those like him, provide what he terms “authentic human support” to the troops and civilians caught in the war zone. As chief military chaplain of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Father Zelinskyy offers both a personal and an organizational view of the role of a chaplain in modern war.
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Image credit: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, via Wikimedia Commons