VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said he is praying for Ukraine and working behind the scenes to help suffering Ukrainians.

“I unite spiritually with your suffering, assuring you of my prayers and involvement, which, considering the current situation, do not appear in the media,” the pope said in a July 11 letter to bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

“I pray that your Church and your People, who are animated by the power of the sacraments and look to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, do not lose Christian hope in a better tomorrow.”

The pope’s letter was addressed to the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and to the Church’s bishops, while they are gathered in synod July 7-15.

The sui iuris Eastern Catholic Church of the Byzantine rite currently has around 51 bishops in its synod. They carry out pastoral service throughout the world, including in the U.S. and Ukraine.

This month’s meeting is taking place in Przemy?l, a city in southeastern Poland just nine miles from Ukraine’s western border and 60 miles from Lviv.

The synod was set to be held in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, before Russia’s invasion and the outbreak of war almost five months ago.

Pope Francis said “the Synod of Bishops dedicated to the theme of ‘Synodality and Universality: experience of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’ must have as its goal the good of the Church and each believer.”

“Moreover,” he advised, “it must be a place of meeting and mutual help on the common path of life, in the search for new means of accompanying the faithful.”

He recalled the example of the 20th-century martyrs of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who were beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2001 during his trip to Lviv.

“But at this very moment we better understand the circumstances under which those martyrs lived and died, among whom were bishops, priests, monks, and nuns and the lay people who became victims of the Soviet communist regime,” he said. “Today, from heaven, they defend their own suffering people.”

“To their care I entrust all the Members of the Synod,” he said.