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Ukrainian bishops in the US pray for peace in their homeland

Ukrainian government soldiers take a rest on the road between the towns of Dabeltseve and Artemivsk on Sunday (PA)

Ukrainian Catholic bishops in the US have appealed for daily fasting and prayer for the citizens of their homeland.

They also called for prayers for “the conversion” of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and “for unity and independence” for the nation.

The bishops said they made the appeal in unison with Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, and the other Ukrainian Catholic bishops, who have asked Catholics in their country to fast and pray daily.

On February 12, a new ceasefire agreement was reached, offering some hope the strife would end. It began shortly after midnight on Sunday. Previous ceasefires have not held.

Last March, Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine, and pro-Russian separatists control Ukraine’s eastern regions.

Ukrainian Catholics fled Crimea to escape arrests and property seizures after the annexation. Most parishes have closed in Ukraine’s war-torn Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where separatists declared an independent “New Russia” after staging local referendums last spring.

The US Ukrainian Catholic bishops urged Catholics to fast and pause from their daily activities “for an extended amount of time to reflect and pray for the people of Ukraine.”

“Meditate on the horrific sufferings of the people of Ukraine, as you pray to God for peace and unity. Pray to the mother of God for her intercession with her son, Jesus Christ, and for her maternal protection of the people of Ukraine,” they said. “Pause to identify with the suffering as you pray for peace. Sacrifice valued time and thought in prayer for our brothers and sisters who suffer.”

The statement was signed by Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia, who is metropolitan of US Ukrainian Catholics in the United States; Bishop Richard S Seminack of St. Nicholas in Chicago; Bishop Paul P Chomnycky of Stamford, Connecticut; Bishop Bohdan J Danylo of St. Josaphat in Parma, Ohio; Auxiliary Bishop John Bura of Philadelphia.

In Ukraine, the fighting has gone on since April 2014 and has left about 5,400 dead and 1.2 million people uprooted.