The Churches’ appeal for peace

The Catholic, Orthodox communities say no to weapons and to external interference

Pope Francis’ appeal echoes in the crucial hours of the long crisis in Ukraine. Tension ran high between Kiev at Moscow. In an ultimatum Russian President Vladimir Putin told Ukrainian army to leave Crimea. The words were eventually toned down and even denied, although Europe suddenly entered a state of fibrillation and markets plummeted at the possibility of an armed conflict in the heart of the continent. “People are afraid”. “I ask you to continue praying from Ukraine, that is living through a delicate situation”, said Pope Francis following the recitation of the Angelus Prayer on Sunday. He added: “I hope that all parts of the country will endeavour to overcome misunderstandings and build together the future of the nation”. The Pope also appealed to the international community “to support any initiative for dialogue and harmony”. The words of the Pontiff immediately arrived in the distant Crimea, where Father Krzysztof Kontek, general vicar of the Latin Catholic diocese of Odessa-Simferopol, remarked: “The Catholic community is a very small minority: the Pope’s concern for the future of our Country is very meaningful for us. It’s the Pope’s voice for us”. “We are in a suspended situation – he told SIR Europe – which is not at all clear. Many people fear negative developments. There is a fear of war, also because the international reaction was not as strong as the local population had expected. We don’t know what will happen in the near future. In the meantime life goes on at a relatively normal pace. Schools are open. I spoke with the auxiliary bishop of Simferopol, who told us that there are troops in the streets but that everything seems to proceed as normal. There is no gunfire nor armed strife”.   Diocese on two fronts. Catholics in Ukraine are not resigned to war. It would mean putting against each other peoples who have peacefully been living side by side until now, and are seriously worried for the possibilities of the outbreak of war. In a message to SIR, Monsignor Bronislav Biernacki, Catholic bishop of Odessa- Simferopol, wrote: “While the whole world is following the situation in Ukraine with grave concern, also the Catholic Church is seriously worried about developments in our Country, now that it’s on the brink of open war, that could extend far beyond the region. In my capacities as bishop of the diocese of Odessa-Simferopol, a part of which lies in the autonomous Republic of Crimea, I must convey my deep sadness for what is happening in my dioceses. As Catholics we ask for peace and dialogue. We understand that all nations have the right to decide about their future independently. We all understand that political changes should take place without external influence. Having seen that this fundamental rule of international conduct has been violated, we appeal to all world nations to support Ukraine to help us restore peace and understanding among the various parties involved in the conflict”. The voice of Moscow’s Patriarchate. All Christian Churches in Ukraine are committed in the front of dialogue and peace. In an appeal to the primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Orthodox Ukrainian Church- Patriarchate of Moscow, Metropolitan Onufry, urged him to do his utmost to prevent bloodshed in Ukraine, after the Kremlin obtained a green light from the Senate to the use of armed forces. In his reply the Patriarch assured he would “do everything that is possible to persuade those in power that they cannot allow destroying peaceful people in the Ukrainian land so dear to my heart”. He continued: None of those who live in Ukraine today should feel strangers in their own home, whatever language they may speak”, the “whole population should have their rights and liberties guaranteed, including the right of participation in the making of fateful decisions”. “The Ukrainian people themselves are to determine their future without any external impact”, the “brotherhood of the Russian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian people” is “living in our hearts”, and it cannot be sacrificed to momentary interests”.

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