On Wednesday during his general audience, Pope Francis made an appeal for peace in Ukraine, and called for a day of prayer and fasting next week on Ash Wednesday:

My heart aches greatly at the worsening situation in Ukraine. Despite the diplomatic efforts of the last few weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up. Like me, many people all over the world are feeling anguish and concern. Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests. I would like to appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war; who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies. I pray that all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilising coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute.

And now I would like to appeal to everyone, believers and non-believers alike. Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God’s weapons, with prayer and fasting. I invite everyone to make next 2 March, Ash Wednesday, a Day of Fasting for Peace. I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.

Recall that Pope Francis dedicated a section of his encyclical Fratelli Tutti to two “false answers that do not resolve the problems they are meant to solve,” war and the death penalty. The invasion by a ruthless and powerful aggressor against a weaker country, as we see today as Russia attacks Ukraine, will cause untold suffering. The consequences will be grave.

261. Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil. Let us not remain mired in theoretical discussions, but touch the wounded flesh of the victims. Let us look once more at all those civilians whose killing was considered “collateral damage”. Let us ask the victims themselves. Let us think of the refugees and displaced, those who suffered the effects of atomic radiation or chemical attacks, the mothers who lost their children, and the boys and girls maimed or deprived of their childhood. Let us hear the true stories of these victims of violence, look at reality through their eyes, and listen with an open heart to the stories they tell. In this way, we will be able to grasp the abyss of evil at the heart of war. Nor will it trouble us to be deemed naive for choosing peace.

Last week, the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops in the United States jointly issued an appeal for peace. The wrote:

Over the last weeks, the world has become fully aware of the fact that democratic Ukraine and its freedom-loving people are increasingly surrounded by hostile military forces prone for invasion. A full escalation of the eight-year Kremlin-led war will bring about devastating bloodshed and untold human suffering. Deaths could be in the tens of thousands and refugees in the millions. The economic and political shockwaves of the social devastation and material destruction in Ukraine will be worldwide. There is ample access to analysis that explains the potential of a disaster with global repercussions.

We appeal to you not as politicians nor strategists. We entreat you as persons of faith in God: “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever” (Ps 125:1). As pastors we appeal to you and to all people of good will to pray for peace and justice in Ukraine.

We ask that beginning tomorrow, Sunday February 13, our priests and parishes, religious communities, families and individual faithful conduct a three-day vigil of prayer for peace and the conversion of the hearts of those who preach violence and escalate war.

Today, the USCCB president, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, issued a statement:

On behalf of my brother bishops, I echo the Holy Father’s call for prayer and fasting to end the war in Ukraine. In times of trouble, we call on the tender mercy of God … to guide our feet to the way of peace (Lk 1:78-79). May our prayers, joined with those of people around the world, help guide those waging war to end the meaningless suffering and restore peace. Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

So let us join together in prayer:

We fly to Your patronage, O Virgin Mother of God. Despise not our prayers in our needs, but deliver us from all dangers, since you alone are pure and blessed.

O most glorious Ever-Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ our God, accept our prayers and present them to Your Son and our God, that for the sake of You, He enlighten and save our souls. Amen.


Image: Adobe Stock. By DOERS.


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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

The abyss of evil at the heart of war
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