Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 23, 2022
Members of the Ukrainian armed forces drive military vehicles past destroyed buildings on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels in Shyrokyne, Ukraine on April 21, 2021. (CNS photo/Oleksandr Klymenko, Reuters)

As tensions increase in Europe over fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, Pope Francis has issued a heartfelt call for a World Day of Prayer for peace on January 26.

“I am following with concern the increase of tensions that threaten to inflict a new blow to the peace in Ukraine, and call into question the security of the European continent, with wider repercussions,” he told pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, January 22.

Russia has amassed some 100,000 troops and military hardware on its border with Ukraine as well as in Belarus, on the northern side of the Ukraine, while the Ukraine government has told its 43 million people to prepare for war. Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe in terms of size after Russia, and was part of the U.S.S.R. until it regained its independence in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Russia already annexed part of Ukraine—the Crimea—almost exactly eight years ago, and has supported separatist movements in the eastern Ukraine. It is putting pressure on the United States and other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance Organization to prevent Ukraine from joining NATO or hosting weapons on its territory that could be used against Russia.

Russian president Vladamir Putin has repeatedly stated that Russia does not intend to invade Ukraine, but the recent military maneuvers suggest otherwise. Ukraine authorities have appealed for help from the West. The United States this past week sent military equipment to the country, as has the United Kingdom, while the three Baltic states—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—announced that they are sending military aid to Ukraine to help it defend its territory in the face of a possible Russian invasion. The United States and the European Union’s 27 countries have threatened grave sanctions against Russia in the event of an invasion.

Russian president Vladamir Putin has repeatedly stated that Russia does not intend to invade Ukraine, but the military maneuvers suggest otherwise.

At the same time, diplomatic efforts are underway to de-escalate the tensions and prevent an invasion. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been in Europe this past week and met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv. He also sat down with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, but without reaching an accord, though they agreed to continue to negotiate.

In this tense and volatile situation, Pope Francis today called for prayers worldwide. He began by saying, “I make a heartfelt appeal to all people of good will, that they may raise prayers to God Almighty, that every political action and initiative may serve human brotherhood, rather than partisan interests.”

Then, in unusually strong words that appeared to be directed to both Russian and Ukrainian leadership, Francis said, “Those who pursue their own interests, to the detriment of others, disregard their human vocation, as we were all created as brothers and sisters.”

Commenting on this statement, a Vatican source who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the subject told America that the risk is that a false move or provocation by the Ukrainians could provide an opening for the Russians to invade. Such an invasion would create an extremely dangerous situation that would be very difficult to control, he added.

Pope Francis concluded his remarks today saying, “For this reason, and with concern, given the current tensions, I propose that next Wednesday, 26 January be a day of prayer for peace.”

Earlier in the week, the Presidency of the Council of the European Bishops Conferences expressed their solidarity with the churches and the people of Ukraine and issued an appeal for prayer for peace in that country. They recalled the pope’s earlier statements for peace in Ukraine and said in a statement, signed by the council’s president, Archbishop Gintaras Grušas:

We, as shepherds of the European Continent, want to appeal to the leaders of the nations so that they do not forget the tragic world wars of the last century and so that international law, as well as the independence and territorial sovereignty of each country, will be defended. Together with the Holy Father, we want to call on governments to find ‘acceptable and lasting solutions’ in Ukraine based on dialogue and negotiation and without resorting to arms.

The statement concluded by asking Christians to pray for the gift of peace in Ukraine “so that those responsible may be filled with, and radiate, a peace that is ‘contagious’ and that the crisis will be overcome exclusively through dialogue.”

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

At times, by over-emphasizing our efforts to do good works, we have created an ideal of holiness excessively based on ourselves.
Pope FrancisMay 15, 2022
The lives of the saints prove that holiness is not an unreachable goal accomplished by a select few but comes from acknowledging and sharing God’s love, Pope Francis said.
In “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” Marvel took all the toys that they know the fans want and then smashed them in front of us.
Jim McDermottMay 13, 2022
The greatest evangelization we can offer is a joyful church.
Damian J. FerenceMay 13, 2022