Pope Francis has made a heartfelt appeal for peace in Ukraine and urged Catholics everywhere to make Ash Wednesday, March 2, a day of fasting and praying for peace.

During the General Audience last week, Pope Francis made an appeal for peace in Ukraine, saying that the threat of war had caused “great pain in my heart.”

“Despite the diplomatic efforts of the last few weeks,” the Pope said, “increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up,” with many people all over the world feeling anguish and pain.”

He also prayed 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.”

Speaking at the end of the General Audience, Pope Francis invited everyone to make 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,” he said.

The Bishop of Plymouth, Mark O’Toole has echoed the call of Pope Francis for a day of fasting and prayer for peace, strongly urged all Catholics to go to Mass this Ash Wednesday to pray for peace in Ukraine. 

“We all feel somewhat impotent,” said the Chair of the Department of Evangelisation and Discipleship at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in a Pastoral Message.  The disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving “have a particular focus for us,” he said, “as we link these spiritual weapons to the reality of what we are living through in Europe at this time. “

The Bishop urges all Catholics to pick up the weapon of prayer: “Physical attendance at Mass, for those who are able, can be a practice that is lived in these days as an act of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering.”

He said that the weapon of fasting: “is an act of solidarity with those who are poor.”  He described: “how shocking it has been for us to see the scenes of panic food and fuel-buying in Ukraine, of the very real sacrifices forced on people as a result of war.  Fasting brings us closer to them.”

And the weapon of almsgiving helps us to be in solidarity with “the poorest in our communities” and “more sensitive to the needs of our neighbours, both at home, and in Ukraine.”

His hope is that “our countries will be generous in receiving these desperate brothers and sisters fleeing for safety from war in their homeland.” 

United in prayer for the People of Ukraine

Psalm 31:21-24 (NRSV)

Blessed be the Lord,
for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was beset as a city under siege.
I had said in my alarm,
“I am driven far from your sight.”
But you heard my supplications
when I cried out to you for help.
Love the Lord, all you his saints.
The Lord preserves the faithful,
but abundantly repays the one who acts haughtily.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage,
all you who wait for the Lord.

Ash Wednesday picture by Mazur/www.cbcew.org.uk