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Catholic News Service is a leading agency for religious news. It was founded by U.S. bishops in 1920, and is an office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
VATICAN CITY — In an Easter message to Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Pope Francis prayed that the Holy Spirit would “transform our hearts and make us true peacemakers, especially for war-torn Ukraine.”
In the message for the April 24 celebration of Easter according to the Julian calendar, the pope expressed his hope that “as soon as possible, the great Easter transition from death to new life in Christ may become a reality for the Ukrainian people, longing for a new dawn to end the darkness of war.”
The pope’s message did not mention the Vatican’s decision to postpone a planned meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in June in Jerusalem.
Patriarch Kirill has been an outspoken supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.
When the pope and patriarch spoke during a video call March 16, the pope told him: “There was a time when we spoke, even in our Churches, of a holy war or a just war. Today we cannot speak like that. The Christian conscience of the importance of peace has developed.”
“Wars are always unjust because the ones who pay are the people of God. Our hearts cannot help but weep before the children, the women killed, all the victims of war. War is never the way. The Spirit that unites us asks us as shepherds to help the people who suffer from war,” the pope said, according to the Vatican press office.
In his Easter greetings to the patriarch, which were published on the Russian Orthodox Church’s website, Pope Francis said that “in these days, when we feel the weight of the suffering of members of our human family, broken by violence, war and many injustices, let us again marvel with a thankful heart that the Lord has taken upon Himself all the evil and pain of our world.”
“Dear brother,” the pope wrote, “let us pray for one another, that we may bear faithful witness to the Gospel message of the risen Christ and to the Church as the universal sacrament of salvation, so that all may enter into the kingdom of ‘righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.’”
Ukrainian Churches call for evacuation of Mariupol
LVIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations called on every Russian religious figure, regardless of confessional affiliation, to make public and private requests to Russian authorities to organize the evacuation of civilians and wounded defenders of Mariupol.
It also called for an internationally supervised evacuation of Mariupol, which Russia almost totally controls. In an appeal issued April 22, the council also proposed a prisoner exchange of Ukrainian soldiers for Russian soldiers.
Separately, the spokesman for Metropolitan Onufriy, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church associated with Moscow, said April 22 that his Church was prepared to organize a prayer procession from the town of Orikhiv to the Azovstal iron and steel works to provide emergency assistance and evacuate civilians sheltering there. The metropolitan said the procession could also remove the bodies of the dead.
The Ukrainian Council of Churches statement said: “Currently, tens of thousands of civilians in Mariupol are on the verge of (death). Many of them have found shelter at the Azovstal plant, where they are hiding from constant shelling and bombing. Among them are children, women, and the elderly, as well as many sick and wounded people ... Their lives can end at any moment if nobody stands up for them right now!”
People walked past a residential building heavily damaged in Mariupol, Ukraine, April 21. The Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations called for an internationally supervised evacuation of Mariupol.Photo Credits: Alexander Ermochenko | ReutersWASHINGTON — The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of its Committee on Migration have voiced their support for the Biden administration’s “Uniting for Ukraine” initiative to welcome Ukrainian refugees coming to the United States.
“Many European countries have shown great concern for Ukrainians, welcoming them with open arms, and we should do the same,” said an April 22 joint statement from Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB president, and Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville, Migration Committee chairman.
“We are particularly concerned with the most vulnerable and hope that support will be given to separated families, the elderly, and those with urgent medical needs,” they said. “This sort of initiative requires that the federal government provide an array of services for arriving families, in addition to those supplied by individuals and private institutions, such as churches.”
The two bishops added: “As a national refugee resettlement agency, the USCCB is eager to support displaced Ukrainians in the United States, together with Catholic organizations, parishes and people of goodwill across the country.”
The USCCB and the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia have partnered with Welcome.US on the Uniting for Ukraine initiative.
Under the provisions of Uniting for Ukraine, Ukrainians must have been residing in Ukraine as of Feb. 11, have a U.S.-based financial sponsor — either an individual or an entity — have received certain vaccinations and met other public health requirements, and pass a series of background checks and security screenings.
However, Ukrainians seeking to enter at U.S. ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border will be denied entry without a valid visa or pre-authorization to travel to the United States.
The two bishops said: “We call on the administration and Congress to work together to ensure Ukrainians seeking refuge in the United States are truly welcomed and receive all of the support that entails. And we ask that this same welcome be extended to those of other nationalities who have fled persecution, violence and disaster, including passage of legislation that would provide our new Afghan neighbors with a pathway to permanent legal status.”
— Catholic News Service
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