Expressing great sadness at the worsening situation in Ukraine, Pope Francis asked world leaders on February 23 to “make a serious examination of conscience before God.”
Speaking at his live-streamed general audience, the pope called for people to fast for peace on March 2, Ash Wednesday, praying that “the Queen of Peace will preserve the world from the madness of war.”
“I have great pain in my heart over the worsening situation in Ukraine,” Pope Francis said in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
“Despite the diplomatic efforts over the past few weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up. Like me, many people throughout the world are feeling anguish and concern. Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests.”
“I would like all those who have the political responsibility to make a serious examination of conscience before God, who is the God of peace and not of war … He wants us to be brothers and not enemies. I pray that all parties involved will refrain from any action that will cause even more suffering for people, destabilizing coexistence among nations and undermining international law.”
The pope’s comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in a televised address on February 21 that he would recognize the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Lugansk and Donetsk as independent entities. The regions, which are run by Russian-backed separatists, include land currently held by the Ukrainian armed forces.
Western countries responded to the announcement by unveiling sanctions targeting Russian banks and politicians.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called off a meeting, scheduled for Thursday, with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, saying that it served no purpose as the U.S. believes that Russia is beginning a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
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.
The warring parties agreed to a cease-fire in July 2020. But recently Russia has sent at least 150,000 troops to the Ukrainian border.
“And now, I would like to appeal to everyone, believers and non-believers alike. Jesus taught us that the diabolical evil of violence is answered with the weapons of God, with prayer and fasting,” Pope Francis said.
“I invite everyone to make next March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace. I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”
(Photo by Daniel Ibanez/CNA.)
By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency