Pope Francis calls for prayer and fasting on Ash Wednesday for Ukraine
February 25, 2022
Image: Monument to St Volodymyr overlooking the Dnipro river in Kyiv, Ukraine.
We stand with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters and all who want peace, and do not want to have their lives destroyed by war. As the world sits on the precipice of disaster, we need to arm ourselves with prayer.
Our Ukrainian chaplain in the diocese at St Volodymyr’s Church in Wollongong, Fr Simon Ckuj, is urging us “to storm heaven with prayers!” He said, “Ukraine is a very religious country, its people have a very great sense of their faith and of the traditions of their faith.
“One of the sad things about this is that people forget that the Russian people themselves are suffering.
“For years, Ukraine was an occupied country—our Church was illegal, it was banned by the Soviet Union.
“We thought we had freedom and now it looks like our freedom will be taken away again.
“Ukraine is a peaceful and freedom loving country. Whilst not a perfect democracy, it’s very hard to shake off 70 years of communist rule in a generation. It’ll take a long time to undo the evils that communism was, and Russian occupation was,” he said.
Pope Francis is calling on us all to pray and fast for peace in Ukraine on Ash Wednesday: “I invite everyone to make March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting for peace,” he said. “I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace protect the world from the folly of war.
“I would like to appeal to those with political responsibilities to do a serious examination of conscience before God, who is the God of peace and not of war, who is the Father of all and not only of some, who wants us to be brothers and sisters and not enemies,” he said.
He also urged world leaders to “refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilising the coexistence between nations and discrediting international law.”
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is also urging prayers: “I take the suffering of people caused by the events taking place with deep and heartfelt pain. As the Patriarch of all Russia and the primate of a Church whose flock is located in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries, I deeply empathise with everyone affected by this tragedy…. The Russian and Ukrainian peoples have a common centuries-old history dating back to the Baptism of Rus’ by Prince St Vladimir the Equal-to-the-Apostles…. I call on the entire fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church to offer a special, fervent prayer for the speedy restoration of peace.”
St Mary Queen of Peace, pray for us.
St Volodymyr, pray for us.
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Our diocesan logo is theologically rich and very succinct. As a hand, it depicts our mission as a diocese and as individuals within the diocese, of bearing (bringing, carrying) Christ’s love to one another and to the world around us. In this, we are the hand of Jesus Christ, and we are offering ourselves to him so that he might work through us.
We can be the bearers of his love only as a response to his call and in the strength of his grace. We are reminded of this in two ways—through the symbol of the dove (the Holy Spirit) also present in the logo, and by the incorporation of the cross that segments the logo. The presence of the cross is a reminder that bearing the love of Christ will inevitably cost us if we live it authentically. However, in the way that the Cross is the portent of redemption and life—an echo of the tree of life in the book of Genesis—so becoming bearers of the love of Christ will also bring us to life.
The four fingers of the hand also represent the four regions of our diocese. The first is bluerepresenting the beautiful water of the Shoalhaven. The second is a blue and green combination representing the waters and escarpment of the Illawarra. The third is greendepicting the hills and plains of the Macarthur. The fourth is dark green illustrating the forests of the Southern Highlands.