“I share the view of Your Holiness that hostility towards any nation is always unacceptable. We are all brothers, which is why we perceive every misfortune of the Ukrainian or Russian people as our own. Therefore, we wholeheartedly pray for peace in Ukraine,” the archbishop of Poznań, west-central Poland, wrote.
“However, so that our prayer may not be considered an expression of hypocrisy, it must be accompanied by actions. I believe, Your Holiness, that you are a man of peace. Our Lord, Jesus Christ taught: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’ (Matthew 5:9).”
Gądecki then called for the patriarch, the leader of more than 100 million Russian Orthodox Christians, to appeal directly to the Russian president to end the conflict.
The archbishop went on: “No reason, no rationale can ever justify the decision to launch a military invasion of an independent country, bombing residential areas, schools, or kindergartens. War is always a defeat for humanity.”
“This war — as I wrote in the previous letter — is even more senseless because of the proximity of the two nations and their Christian roots. Is it permissible to destroy the cradle of Christianity on Slavic soil, the place where Rus was baptized?”
The archbishop was referring to the baptism of Prince Vladimir the Great, the ruler of Kievan Rus, in the year 988, an event that led to the Christianization of Russia.
He continued: “I also ask you to appeal to Russian soldiers not to take part in this unjust war, to refuse to carry out orders which, as we have already seen, lead to many war crimes. Refusing to follow orders in such a situation is a moral obligation.”
“The time will come to settle these crimes, including before the international courts. However, even if someone manages to avoid this human justice, there is a tribunal that cannot be avoided. ‘For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body’ (2 Corinthians 5:10).”
The Polish archbishop quoted a Russian soldier in Ukraine as saying: “We don’t know who to shoot at; they all look like us.”
“So, I ask you to appeal to them to go home as soon as possible without staining their hands with innocent blood,” Gądecki wrote.
The archbishop noted that Polish Catholics observed a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine on March 2, responding to an appeal by Pope Francis.
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“I ask you, Brother, to call on all Orthodox brothers and sisters in Russia to engage in similar spiritual work,” he concluded. “I believe that the Lord God will not remain indifferent to our prayers and sacrifices. I believe that fasting and prayer change a person’s heart.”