Bishops call for peace in Ukraine, generous Australian response
Australian Catholic Bishops Conference president Archbishop Mark Coleridge has expressed indignation at what is happening in Ukraine and called for a rejection of the madness of war and a return to reason, saying “the peace of the world is at stake”.
“We express our deep compassion for the people of Ukraine and our solidarity with all people of Ukrainian heritage here in Australia,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“It’s not enough to condemn the bloodshed, breathe threats and take half-measures. The entire international community – including Australia – needs to do all in its power to stop the violence.
“This isn’t some geopolitical game. Lives are at stake. The lies have to stop. Truth and justice have to prevail if there is to be a future for all of us.
“Ukraine may seem a long way from Australia, but what’s happening there is not. Ukraine has become the world which will never be the same because of this militarised barbarism.”
Bishop Mykola Bychok, the leader of the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Australia, said there has been growing fear in his homeland in recent weeks. That fear was realised this week.
“Ukraine is a peaceful nation; we don’t want war. An escalated Russian invasion will result in many more dead and injured, millions of refugees, more tears and pain,” he said.
“This is a question of life and death as nostalgia for an empire lost has led to senseless slaughter and immense suffering throughout Ukraine.”
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, a country whose identity long predates the Soviet Union and which has been widely recognised as a sovereign nation since 1991, is also likely to see the freedom of Ukrainian Catholics to practice their faith curtailed.
This would be all the more bitter for a Church which for 70 years was persecuted and forced underground, Bishop Bychok said.
Archbishop Coleridge stressed that, as with other countries that have known war in recent years, most recently Afghanistan, “a generous response by the Australian government is needed to help people fleeing violence in Ukraine”.
Caritas Australia, part of the Church’s international aid and development agency, is working with Caritas Ukraine to provide vital humanitarian assistance for the victims of war.
Pope Francis has appealed to those “with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war, who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and sisters and not enemies”.
The Pope called on all believers and people of good will to make Ash Wednesday, March 2, a special day of prayer and fasting for peace. Archbishop Coleridge urged parishes, schools and other Catholic communities in Australia to heed his call.
“Prayer is more powerful than bombs. So we’ll be praying for an immediate ceasefire and a return to reason and negotiation. We’re also praying for those who have been killed, wounded or forced to flee,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
Caritas Australia calls for urgent humanitarian response to Ukraine conflict
Caritas Australia condemns the conflict in Ukraine and calls for urgent humanitarian response from the Australian government.
“I express my deepest compassion and solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and call on the Australian Government to take urgent action to prevent further loss of life,” said Kirsty Robertson, Caritas Australia’s CEO.
“We have a duty to help prevent what might otherwise become Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since WWII - we’re talking about the very real possibility that between three and five million people will be forced to flee their homes in freezing conditions, many risking death and injury as they walk through the heavily mine-contaminated region of eastern Ukraine. This will be a dire humanitarian disaster if the world doesn’t respond fast enough.”
“Behind the news coverage is the heartbreaking reality that millions of Ukrainians are now living through air raids and attacks. Three million people were already in need of humanitarian assistance after eight years of conflict.”
“There is already extensive damage to basic water, gas and electricity infrastructure, and water facilities continue to be a target of attacks. Children have grown up amidst conflict and families have been separated for years.”
“Access to humanitarian aid is a major concern. It’s already hard to reach some communities, and the invasion will only make it harder. At the same time, the need is going to greatly increase. This makes it even more vital for the Australian Government to respond promptly before the situation spirals out of control.”
“We’re calling on the Australian Government and the Australian people to come to the aid of Ukraine, to help prevent a dire humanitarian crisis. We’re supporting Caritas Ukraine to respond, and through working with them on the ground we will help support Ukrainian families who have fled their homes with vital emergency supplies including clean water, hygiene and food kits.”
“Caritas Ukraine will also support safe collection centres for families on the move, provide emergency accommodation for those who cannot shelter elsewhere, and support distressed children and families with psychological care, social workers and recreational activities.”
Donations can be made at: www.caritas.org.au/donate/emergency-appeals/ukraine/
Caritas Australia to hold special prayer for Ukraine on Ash Wednesday
On March 2, Ash Wednesday, Caritas Australia will be holding “Pray for Ukraine”, a special prayer in solidarity with Ukraine open to all via Zoom at 4pm AEST. Caritas Australia’s Director of Mission, Michael McGirr, will be leading the vigil.
“Every Ash Wednesday we take time to reflect, pray and fast. This year Pope Francis has called on us all to make this Ash Wednesday a special day of fasting, penance and prayer for peace in Ukraine,” said Mr McGirr.
“We will stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian sisters and brothers in their time of great need. We pray earnestly for peace and justice. Together, we will join together and call on God ‘...to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ (Lk 1:79). I fervently hope that our prayers, joined with countless others around the world, may help to end this meaningless suffering and restore peace.”
“Ukraine needs our help more than ever, as they face what may soon become mass displacement at a scale not seen since WWII. Already over 368,000 people have fled Ukraine and crossed into neighbouring countries, and millions more are expected to flee in the coming days and weeks.”
“This prayer is one way for us to show our compassion and solidarity with those facing conflict in Ukraine right now, and I look forward to seeing Australians come together in prayer and support for our friends in Ukraine. We ask God to bring light to a dark situation.”
Caritas Australia would like to invite anyone to join in prayer this Wednesday at 4pm AEST.
Please join on Zoom. Meeting details and link below.
Meeting ID: 883 2914 0480