Archbishop Gallagher: Innocent people will suffer from conflict 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.

The Vatican’s foreign minister said Wednesday, in reference to tensions between Ukraine and Russia, that it is a scandal that those who suffer most from conflict are those most helpless to prevent it.

At a prayer service for peace in Ukraine on Jan. 26, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher said, “we all know how tragic war is and we have its serious consequences constantly before our eyes, even more evident in our times.”

“These are painful situations that deprive many people of even the most fundamental rights. It is even more scandalous to see that those who suffer most from conflicts are not those who decide whether or not to start them, but are above all those who are only helpless victims,” he said at Rome’s Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

The prayer service was organized by the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio in light of Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer for Ukraine amid fears of a potential deeper Russian incursion into the Eastern European country.

During his general audience on Jan. 26, the pope renewed his appeal for peace.

“Please, no more war,” he said, addressing those in power. To pilgrims he said: “I invite you to pray for peace in Ukraine and to do so often throughout this day.” 

“Let us ask the Lord insistently that this land may see fraternity flourish and overcome wounds, fears, and divisions,” he added.

Gallagher, who is the Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, presided over the period of prayer in Rome at 7:15 p.m. local time. At the same time, Catholics in the Community of Sant’Egidio gathered in Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv to pray.

During the Rome service, Gallagher said, “it is truly sad to see entire populations torn apart by so much suffering caused not by natural disasters or events that are beyond human power, but by the ‘hand of man,’ by actions carried out not in a fit of rage, but carefully calculated and systematically carried out.”

In the face of such situations, we must all recognize our joint responsibility for promoting peace, he stated.

“Let us open our hearts today to the God who ‘has plans for us for peace, not for misfortune’ (Jeremiah 29:11), and who sent his Son into the world to proclaim peace to all and to reconcile us with the Father.”

Ukraine, which has a population of 44 million people, borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia.

The Russo-Ukrainian War began in February 2014, focused on the east of Ukraine. The conflict has claimed more than 14,000 lives and driven 1.3 million people from their homes, according to Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities raising funds for those affected.

The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020. But Russia has sent an estimated 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. U.S. President Joe Biden said on Jan. 19 that he expected Russian President Vladimir Putin to order an invasion.

The U.S. State Department said on Jan. 23 that it had ordered the departure of family members of U.S. government employees at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv.

“He, who from the moment of creation entrusted us to one another, has made us all brothers and sisters,” Gallagher said on Wednesday. “Carrying in our hearts the tragedy of the conflicts that tear the world apart, we recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters both to those who cause them and to those who suffer their consequences, and in Jesus Christ we present to the Father both the grave responsibility of the former and the pain of the latter.”

“Let us invoke for everyone from the Lord of history, who sees all and before whom we will all stand, the gift of peace, not limiting ourselves, however, to waiting for agreements and truces to be reached and respected, but imploring and committing ourselves so that in ourselves and in all hearts the new man may be reborn, the man recreated and unified in Christ, who lives in peace and believes in the power of peace,” he said.

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