The Catholic bishops’ conference of Russia has called on political leaders to end the conflict with Ukraine.
In a Feb. 24 message, the Catholic bishops of five dioceses in Russia warned leaders “that they will have to give a strict account of the military actions they have taken.”
“For the course of centuries to come depends largely on their present decisions,” the bishops said, referencing Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church.
“We call upon all the politicians on whom this decision depends to do decisively everything to end this conflict,” they added.
The Catholic bishops of Russia published the message after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in the early hours of Feb. 24.
Fighting took place at an airfield outside of Russia’s capital city, Kyiv, on the night of Feb. 24 and the morning of Feb. 25. The city was also hit by blasts that caused damage to an apartment block.
Ukrainian forces are responding to attacks on several fronts after Russian troops crossed into the country from the east, north, and south.
In their message to Catholic clergy and laity in Russia, the bishops wrote: “We, like all of you, are deeply shocked that, despite great efforts at reconciliation, the political conflict between Russia and Ukraine has turned into an armed confrontation.”
“This confrontation brings death and destruction and threatens the security of the entire world,” they said, noting that the peoples of Ukraine and Russia were united not only by a shared history, “but also by the enormous suffering that has fallen on us in the past because of the madness of war.”
“Our peoples deserve peace,” the bishops said, “not just the absence of war, but the kind of peace that consists in a firm determination to respect other people, other peoples, and their dignity.”
According to 2017 figures, there are fewer than 800,000 Catholics in Russia, comprising roughly 0.5% of the 144 million population, which is predominantly Russian Orthodox.
The country has had a Catholic bishops’ conference since 1999. Archbishop Paolo Pezzi, leader of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God at Moscow, is the conference chairman.
The bishops asked Russian Catholics to devote themselves to intensified prayers and fasting for the preservation of human lives, especially on March 2, Ash Wednesday, in response to Pope Francis’ appeal to Catholics worldwide.
They also asked priests to offer Masses for the intention of peace and justice.
“God is a God of peace and not of war, the Father of all and not only of some, and He wants us to be brothers and not enemies,” the bishops said, quoting Pope Francis.
“And we also appeal to all people, especially fellow Christians, to confront lies and hatred, and to be a source of reconciliation, not the multiplication of hatred and violence,” they concluded.
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