Through the good offices of Old Etonian Professor TEA Beravale, this year’s Bevir Lecture at Eton College was given by the Bishop of Ukraine on 13 June. The event was hosted by the Provost of Eton, Lord Waldegrave, a former government minister, and the audience included teachers and boys, as well as special guests the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendía and Ambassador of Ukraine, Vadym Prystaiko.
Old Etonian Sir Anthony Bevir CBE, KCVO (1895-1977) was a twentieth century diplomat that was best known for becoming Winston Churchill’s private secretary. In 1978, Bevir bequeathed a gift to fund an annual lecture at the school on “some aspect of the relationship between church and state in England, or a current theological or religious issue.” The lecture continues today and is published in the Eton archives. Given the current situation in Ukraine, it was appropriate to invite the Bishop of Ukraine to take part in this year’s event.
The Right Reverend Kenneth Nowakowski is Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy (Diocese) of the Holy Family of London, and was enthroned Bishop for Ukrainian, Slovak and Belarusian Eastern Catholics in Great Britain in March 2020. The great-grandson of Ukrainian immigrants from Western Ukraine, Bishop Kenneth was the bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy (Diocese) of New Westminster (Vancouver), British Columbia, Canada, prior to his enthronement in London.
Bishop Kenneth’s lecture topic was ‘Right side of the (hi)story: Responses of global Christian and other faith leaders to the Russian war against Ukraine.’ The lecture provided a unique insight into the way global Christian and other religious faith leaders responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It set out to answer why the words and actions of global faith leaders are so important. He explained why what is happening in Ukraine is so significant for the world, and why it is crucial for students at Eton College to understand the deeper underpinnings of the situation.
Through an examination of public statements made by faith leaders like Pope Francis, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, His Beatitude Sviatoslav, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, as well as Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church and others, Bishop Kenneth concluded that evil is real, but we must always let hope guide us. He noted how young people in Ukraine today are involved in the battle between good and evil. Some bravely fight on the front and have lost their lives doing so. Others help by volunteering in their communities. Ukraine’s entire population is involved in the effort to defend the freedoms that some people in the UK perhaps take for granted. The words of global faith leaders have a powerful impact on the truth and our understanding of the truth.
The Bishop challenged his audience at Eton College to seek the truth, to stay informed, and to look with compassion at the suffering of others through the lens of the Gospel of Christ.