On February 24, President Vladimir Putin of Russia ordered a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Ukraine said it faced a “full-scale attack from multiple directions.”
Hours after the Russian offensive began, the Ukrainian Catholic Bishops’ Conference sent a message to the faithful, inviting them to pray for “the leaders of our state, for our army” and also “for those who started the war and were blinded by aggression.”
The bishops urged the faithful not to give in to “hatred and rage.”
The statement said, “let us be ready to defend our homeland according to our abilities and responsibilities, in the army or our workplaces, in hospitals,” or through any material or spiritual support.
Vatican: Do not lose hope
Less than 24-hours after the Russian action, the Vatican warned of the threat of international destabilization while maintaining "there is still time for goodwill, there is still room for negotiation."
"There is still room for the exercise of a wisdom that prevents the prevalence of partisan interests, protects the legitimate aspirations of each and spares the world from madness and saves the world from the folly and horrors of war," said Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin in a February 24 video message.
He echoed the Holy Father’s call to make Ash Wednesday, this coming March 2, a day of fasting and prayer for the intention of peace in Ukraine.
"We believers do not lose hope," said Parolin.
Catholics across Europe in Solidarity
Meanwhile, Catholics across Europe have reacted to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, expressing solidarity with the Ukrainian people and prayers for peace.
Tetiana Stawnychy, the president of Caritas Ukraine, a Catholic charity, expressed concern that Ukraine is heading for a humanitarian catastrophe, adding that there were already 2.9 million people on both sides of the contact line who needed humanitarian assistance before the attack.
"The events which began early this morning will inevitably lead to a colossal humanitarian catastrophe," Stawnychy said on Twitter.
Polish Bishops: 'Unacceptable'
Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, the president of the Polish bishops’ conference in a statement, said, “I strongly condemn the actions of Russia and Vladimir Putin as an unacceptable and shameful act of barbarism directed against sovereignty.”
“At the same time - together with the whole Church in Poland - I express my solidarity with all Ukrainians, both in Poland and in Ukraine, assuring them of our closeness, prayer, and availability to help,” he said.
Patriarch Kirill of Moscow calls for peace
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, issued a statement calling for peace “I call on the entire Russian Orthodox Church to raise a deep and fervent prayer for the swift restoration of peace,” said in a statement released on the afternoon of February 24.
The Patriarch called upon on those involved in the conflict “to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.
“As the patriarch of all Russia and primate of this Church, whose flock is in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries, I deeply sympathize with all those who have been affected by the misfortune,” he stated.
Kirill exhorted the faithful to assist the victims and refugees.
“The Russian and Ukrainian peoples have a centuries-old common history that goes back to the baptism of Russia,” he said, praying that this history “will help overcome the divisions and contradictions that have led to the current conflict.”
WCC calls for respect of borders
The World Council of Churches (WCC) has called for “an immediate end to the current armed hostilities and the protection of all human lives and communities threatened by this violence. It insisted on “respect for established national borders.”
Patriarch of Constantinople 'shocked.'
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, strongly condemned “the Russian invasion” in a statement issued by the Patriarchate.
Saying he was “shocked,” the 81-year-old phoned the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the morning to express his pain at the “flagrant violation of any notion of international law.”
According to media reports, the Orthodox leader said he prayed to God to “enlighten the leaders of the Russian Federation” so that they would understand the “tragic consequences” of their decisions, which could trigger a global military conflict.
Some 60 Catholic bishops gathered in Florence, meanwhile, for a summit on the Mediterranean, abandoned the meeting discussions and took to Eucharistic Adoration to pray for peace.
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