VATICAN CITY -- Despite Russia's beginning military operations in Ukraine, there still is time to stop and "spare the world from the folly and horrors of war," said the Vatican secretary of state.
Just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin began a wide-ranging attack on cities across Ukraine Feb. 24, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, issued a video message pleading for an end to the hostilities.
"In light of today's developments in the crisis in Ukraine, we see even more clearly the timeliness of the clear and heartfelt appeal" made by Pope Francis Feb. 23, the cardinal said.
The pope had spoken at his weekly general audience of his "great sorrow" and his "anguish and concern" over the continued buildup of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border and Putin's decision to recognize two areas of eastern Ukraine as independent.
Pope Francis, Cardinal Parolin said, "urged all parties involved to 'refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people,' 'destabilizing coexistence between nations' and "bringing international law into disrepute.'"
The pope's appeal, he said, "has taken on dramatic urgency following the beginning of Russian military operations in Ukrainian territory."
"The tragic scenarios that everyone feared are becoming a reality," Cardinal Parolin said. "Yet there is still time for goodwill, there is still room for negotiation, there is still a place for the exercise of a wisdom that can prevent the predominance of partisan interests, safeguard the legitimate aspirations of everyone and spare the world from the folly and horrors of war."
"As believers," he said, "we do not lose hope for a glimmer of conscience on the part of those who hold in their hands the fortunes of the world."
Catholics will continue to fast and pray for peace in Ukraine
and in the entire world, he said, especially on Ash Wednesday, March 2, as Pope Francis has asked.
After his audience address Feb. 23, the pope addressed the situation, saying:" My heart aches greatly at the worsening situation in Ukraine. Despite the diplomatic efforts of the last few weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up. Like me, many people all over the world are feeling anguish and concern. Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests. I would like to appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war; who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies. I pray that all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilizing coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute.
"And now I would like to appeal to everyone, believers and non-believers alike. Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God's weapons, with prayer and fasting. I invite everyone to make next March 2, Ash Wednesday, a Day of Fasting for Peace. I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war."
U.S. Church offers prayers, solidarity after Russia attacks Ukraine
By Rhina Guidos, Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON — As war broke out in Europe Feb. 24, with Russia's early morning attacks on various parts of Ukraine, Catholics in the U.S. joined Pope Francis in prayers for the people of the East European nation and for peace.
"We join @Pontifex in calling on all people of goodwill to pray for the people of #Ukraine and for an end to war," said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in a tweet, hours after Russia launched rocket attacks into Ukraine and followed the aggression with a mobilization of troops and tanks into Ukrainian territory.
News reports showed bombarded apartment buildings and towns and abandoned cities.
Some reported at least 40 casualties, others said they numbered in the hundreds early Feb. 24. The only thing for certain, said NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, is that "peace our continent has been shattered."
Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka of Peoria, Illinois, like many in the U.S., seemed to be ending Feb. 23 with news of the initial attacks on Ukraine, which took place early Feb. 24 local time in that country.
"Friends as we go to bed in central Illinois tonight, the people in Ukraine awake to war," Bishop Tylka tweeted around 11:30 p.m. (CST). "Let us pray for peace! Let us pray for an end to war! Let us pray that conflict can be resolved by dialogue -- not violence! Lord we pray -- bring peace to our troubled world."
Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, in a Feb. 24 statement said the former oppressors of Ukraine were now known by another name "and are waging war under a different flag, but the trauma is no less today than in the past in this nation that has suffered far too much."
"Our friends in Ukraine are in need of healing and hope," he said in his statement. "We at Notre Dame stand in solidarity with all peace-loving people worldwide in demanding an end to this invasion of a sovereign nation. This unprovoked war is an international abomination and must stop now."
"Until it does," he said, "may God keep safe all of the innocent men, women and children who are currently in harm's way. The prayers of the Notre Dame family are with them."
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany, New York, said the world was "again seeing the face of evil."
He called all in his diocese to pray for Ukraine and reminded Catholics of Pope Francis' words: "to pray is to protest war in front of God. Never stop asking the Lord with faith and insistence for the end of conflict."
He said the Albany Diocese would fervently pray for the intercession of Mary Immaculate, to whom it consecrated, "that this military action quickly ends, that causalities are limited, and we pray for the repose of the souls of those who have been killed and those who will no doubt lose their lives in the coming days."
How to help people in Ukraine
Various Catholic agencies are collecting donations to aid with the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, as people flee to escape Russian bombing and shelling. Here are some places to donate. This list is not exhaustive.
The international Caritas confederation is collecting funds to help Caritas Ukraine. In the United States, that is through Catholic Relief Services: https://bit.ly/3LWtOKa. Internationally, you can donate through https://www.caritas.org/.
The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia also has a link: https://ukrarcheparchy.us/donate.
Two pontifical agencies also are taking donations for Ukraine: Catholic Near East Welfare Association, https://cnewa.org/campaigns/ukraine/, and Aid to the Church in Need, https://bit.ly/3sgpuNV. Internationally, Aid to the Church can be reached at https://bit.ly/3vfqCn4.