Pope Francis Declares Ash Wednesday Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace

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Pope Francis has asked all to join him in praying and fasting on March 2, 2022, Ash Wednesday, for peace in response to increased tensions between Russia and Ukraine, and now the outright invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

“I invite everyone to make next March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace,” Pope Francis said, “I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”

The Holy Father called on world leaders to, “make a serious examination of conscience before God, who is the God of peace and not of war … He wants us to be brothers and not enemies. I pray that all parties involved will refrain from any action that will cause even more suffering for people, destabilizing coexistence among nations and undermining international law.”

Francis’ call to fast and pray was made after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on February 21 that Russia would recognize the Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk as independent states. Much of Lugansk and Donetsk are controlled by separatist fighters aligned with Russia. Recognizing these two Ukrainian regions as independent created the excuse for Putin to move troops in, claiming the need to do so in order to maintain the peace.

Yesterday, however, Putin initiated a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Explosions were heard in the major Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv and Odessa, and even in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. Western leaders, including President Biden, have placed sanctions on Russia. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany has been stopped. Concerns are that the invasion will result in many casualties and threaten the democratic government in Ukraine, as well as creating international economic chaos. Biden has said that the United States will not engage Russia militarily. For his part, Putin warned the West not to intervene. “Whoever tries to impede us,” Putin said, “let alone create threats to our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to consequences you have never seen in history.” Western leaders have lined up to express their condemnation of Putin’s invasion, promising continued and severe sanctions against Russia and assisting Ukraine with military resources.

Western Ukrainian bishops and Polish bishops have called on their Catholic people to open their arms to embrace refugees of war from eastern Ukraine. Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poznan, president of the Polish bishop’s conference, called on Polish Catholics to offer, “open and hospitable hearts for refugees from Ukraine who will seek refuge from war in Poland.” Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki of Lviv in western Ukraine said that they are prepared to welcome and assist those in need and have even provided first-aid courses to priests, religious and laypeople so they can care for any injured.

In the United States, Sean Callahan, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, said they are working with Caritas Ukraine to prepare to offer assistance. Callahan was not optimistic and expressed his concern for those caught in the midst of war: “We recognize that the humanitarian crisis resulting from an invasion of Ukraine would completely overwhelm the capacity of the aid agencies in the region. The freezing winter temperatures, likely damage to health facilities and other vital infrastructure, and the enormity of the civilian population in harm’s way could lead to suffering on a scale we have not seen in Europe in our lifetimes.”

Now that diplomatic efforts have failed, there is little else for Catholics to do but offer prayers for a quick and just resolution and assistance in any way we can. If you would like to donate to efforts by CRS to assist those in Ukraine, you can go to this link.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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