From Florence, Italy, where a gathering of bishops and mayors is dedicated to the challenges faced by the nations surrounding the Mediterranean, Europe’s bishops have urged peace in Ukraine. Some 60 bishops have gathered around the Eucharist this February 24 to pray for the intention of peace.
“War is always a defeat for humanity,” the bishops emphasized in a statement, citing especially the experience of those from Poland and Ukraine.
The statement from the bishops concludes with a prayer, which says, “May your peace, given in Christ, bring calm among the tensions.”
Meetings off, Adoration on
The bishops participating in the Florence meeting cancelled discussion times scheduled for February 24 at the end of the afternoon in order to share together “a moment of Eucharistic Adoration and silent prayer for peace” in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella.
This program change – which eliminates two hours of roundtables – was announced by the director of the National Office for Social Communications of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Vincenzo Corrado.
The conflict in Ukraine largely interfered in the discussions of the Florentine summit which opened only February 23.
His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, had to give up participating in the meeting in order to stay with “his people.”
In the morning, the bishops present in Florence sent him their “solidarity,” said the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, during a press conference.
With Mary, Mother of peace, we implore you Lord …
Here is the statement from the European bishops:
On behalf of the Bishops of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), I wish to express our great concern about the on-going tensions in our Eastern neighbourhood and demonstrate our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine.
The escalating rhetoric and actions that we are currently witnessing pose a threat not only to the people of Ukraine, but they also put at risk peace on the whole European Continent and beyond. A potential military invasion and a subsequent violent conflict would not only bring horrific human suffering and death, but also destroy the achievements of several generations in building peace and stability in Europe for many years to come.
As Polish and Ukrainian Bishops have recently stated, “taught by the experience of previous generations, we appeal to the rulers to refrain from hostilities,” since “war is always a defeat for humanity.”
Echoing the appeal of Pope Francis, COMECE calls on all parties to put particular interests aside and promote steps leading to de-escalation and confidence-building, while seeking a peaceful and sustainable solution to the crisis, based on truthful dialogue and rooted in international law.
We urge the international community, including the European Union, to renew its commitment to peace and actively contribute to these dialogue efforts, not by demonstrating force and reinforcing armament dynamics, but by seeking creative ways of negotiation and value-based engagement.
We welcome the recent announcement of the European Commission to offer a new financial assistance package of €1.2bn to Ukraine and call for its swift adoption and implementation for the benefit of people in Ukraine.
Joining Pope Francis’ special invitation to prayer on this day, we encourage all faithful and people of good will to pray for peace in Ukraine and in Europe:
You bless your people with peace.
May your peace, given in Christ, bring calm among the tensions that are threatening the security in Ukraine and on the European Continent.
Instead of walls of division and confrontation, may seeds of goodwill, mutual respect and human fraternity be planted and nourished.
Give wisdom, we pray, to all parties and those who bear responsibility in the international community, that they may seek to bring an end to the on-going tensions, by embracing the pathway of reconciliation and peace through dialogue and constructive cooperation.
With Mary, the Mother of Peace, we implore you, o Lord, awaken your people to pursue the path of peace, mindful of Jesus’ words: ‘blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called the children of God.’
H.Em. Jean-Claude Cardinal Hollerich SJ
Archbishop of Luxembourg, President of COMECE