Smell of death replaces smell of sheep, says chaplain

Pope Francis with Fr Oleksandr Khalayim during an audience with Missionaries of Mercy priests at the Vatican on Monday (CNS/VaticanMedia)

Having “the smell of sheep” for one military chaplain serving in Ukraine now means being surrounded by the smell of burned homes and lives. Source: CNS.

Fr Oleksandr Khalayim, a military chaplain and a missionary of mercy, is a priest of the Diocese of Kamyanets-Podilskyi in the southwest of Ukraine, near the border with Moldova and Romania.

The priest was in Rome for an April 23-25 World Meeting of Missionaries of Mercy, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation.

Fr Khalayim spoke about Pope Francis’ mandate “that priests must have the smell of sheep,” that is, of their people. “And now the Church in Ukraine has this smell — the smell of burning, the smell of war” and “the smell of death.”

“Every city has its own smell of suffering. It can’t be described. The Church here must become saturated with this smell and stay close by with different ways of helping,” Fr Khalayim said.

Asked how he brings mercy and forgiveness as a chaplain to a war zone, Fr Khalayim said, “there must be dialogue before forgiveness. Forgiveness must be accepted, and it is a long journey” that may take “three or four generations”.

“For me, right now it is hard to talk about forgiveness if bombs keep coming, if children are still being killed, if our cities are still being bombed,” he said. “To forgive what women and children have suffered through is truly difficult.

“Yes, we Christians must talk about forgiveness, but we cannot exploit this word, because forgiveness comes with responsibility. God forgave not just with words, but with his heart.”


‘Smell of sheep’ in Ukraine reeks of scorched homes, death, chaplain says (By Carol Glatz, CNS)

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