Do not lose hope, our brothers and sisters need us

The Diocesan Administrator in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Fr Greg Barker, has echoed calls from Pope Francis for Christians worldwide to unite in fasting and prayer, focused on peace, this Ash Wednesday.

Their calls come on the back of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in recent days, which has led to bloodshed and devastating terror.

As the international community watches the escalating conflict between neighbouring countries in horror, Pope Francis made an appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their conscience 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,” he said.

Fr Greg Barker said while the war may feel like a long way from Australia, it is important that people from across our diocese stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, including those of Ukrainian heritage that live locally.

“We pray this day for peace. We pray for the people of the Ukraine and for a stop to the aggressive actions of their neighbour,” Fr Greg said. “We pray for those who suffer at the hand of another and for those most vulnerable in our community. We pray more people walk in the footsteps of Jesus, giving all they have to transform homes, communities, and world.”

Fr Greg also endorsed recent calls from the president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, for the Australian government to provide generous support to people fleeing violence in the Ukraine.

“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,” Archbishop Coleridge said. 

“This isn’t some geopolitical game. Lives are at stake.”

As well as fasting and praying for peace this Ash Wednesday, Fr Greg is encouraging those in a position to do so, to support the efforts of Caritas Australia.

Caritas Australia, part of the Church’s international aid and development agency, is working with Caritas Ukraine to provide vital humanitarian assistance. Caritas Ukraine will provide essential emergency response, including basic food and hygiene kits, access to clean drinking water and fuel to vulnerable households to survive the cold weather conditions.  

“Although we are thousands of miles of way from the conflict, we must do what we can to help our brothers and sisters facing unimaginable devastation. While prayer, donations, and political pressure will not take away their pain these actions will help to inspire hope when they need it most,” Fr Greg said. 

Caritas Australia is currently raising funds to support communities impacted by the conflict in Ukraine. Visit caritas.org.au/donate/emergency-appeals/ukraine/ or call 1800 024 413 toll free to provide much needed support.     

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Lizzie Snedden Image
Lizzie Snedden

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.