Europe’s Catholic bishops ask for prayers for peace in Ukraine

Catholics pictured near the Co-Cathedral of St. Alexander in Kyiv, Ukraine. April 3, 2021. Catholics pictured near the Co-Cathedral of St. Alexander in Kyiv, Ukraine. April 3, 2021. | paparazzza/Shutterstock.

Catholic bishops in Europe have expressed support for Ukraine and appealed to Christians to pray for peace.

“At this extremely delicate time, we ask 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,” a Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE) communique said.

Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, the president of the CCEE, issued the statement on behalf of the council on Jan. 21. He said that Catholic bishops in Europe wished to express closeness to the people of Ukraine “in this dramatic moment of tension.”

“While the entire international community interprets the actions of the Russian military forces as a real threat to peace throughout the world, we embrace — in this time of fear and uncertainty for the future of the country — our brothers and sisters in the faith and all the people of Ukraine,” Grušas said.

The bishops’ statement called on the international community to “offer its support to the country in the face of the danger of a Russian military offensive.”

“We also, 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,” Grušas said.

“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 bishops’ statement said.

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, is the second-largest country by area in Europe after Russia.

The conflict between the two countries — known as the Russo-Ukrainian War — began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020.

Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said at a press conference on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva, Switzerland, on Jan. 21.

Bliken told journalists after the bilateral meeting that if any Russian military forces move across Ukraine’s border, “it will be met with swift, severe and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies.”

Pope Francis addressed the situation in Ukraine in his annual “state of the world” address to diplomats last week.

“Reciprocal trust and readiness to engage in calm discussion should also inspire all parties at stake, so that acceptable and lasting solutions can be found in Ukraine,” the pope said on Jan. 10.

The pope also issued an appeal for “beloved Ukraine” in his Angelus address last month, calling on world leaders to resolve the crisis through “serious international dialogue and not with weapons.”

“I want to assure you of my prayers for beloved Ukraine, for all its Churches and religious communities, and for all its people so that the tensions it is experiencing might be resolved through a serious international dialogue and not with weapons,” he said on Dec. 12.

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