(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday joined Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, in a visit to a Ukrainian church in Washington, expressing vocal admiration for the Ukrainian people.
Blinken called Markarova “our new star,” in the wake of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night where he called attention to the ambassador who was seated next to first lady Jill Biden.
“It’s in the most difficult moments that our faith is tested,” Blinken said to the audience, including Ukrainian faith leaders and activists, at the Ukrainian Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family.
He also said this is a moment for faith in democracy, peace, and “in the conviction that good will prevail over evil.”
Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin made a “horrific, terrible mistake,” in his aggression against Ukraine.
“We stand with them, we stand with you, and we will prevail in this struggle,” Blinken said of the Ukrainian people. He praised the Ukrainians who he said have been inspiring the world with resilience, strength and faith.
The Ukrainian people are “insisting on their freedom, insisting on their independence, insisting on their right to go forward as a sovereign, independent country,” he said.
Inside the church, Blinken lit a candle and spoke with a group of Ukrainian leaders, including Archbishop Borys Gudziak and Ukrainian American activist Ulana Mazurkevich.
The meeting united leaders of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which separated in 2018.
“We’re like one family,” said the pastor, Fr. Robert Hitchens, “In family, there are disagreements over things. But, when it comes down to matters of life and death, we pull together, we work together, we pray together and we set aside any differences.”
He said Blinken’s visit honored Ukrainians in the U.S. and overseas.
“They’re not forgotten,” Hitchens said about those in Ukraine. “The government of the United States and their sisters and brothers, fellow Ukrainians, and all peoples of goodwill, and this nation are standing with them.”
Like many other members of the church, Hitchens said his great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S., but kept their Catholic faith strong.
Hitchens said his biggest fear is the threat of extinction for Ukraine, and that the church will be forced underground under Russia’s rule.
“In my heart of hearts, I know somehow Ukraine will survive and its people will still survive,” said Hitchens. “But not before there’s a whole lot of senseless hurt.”
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