The Pontiff's appeal picked up by all Russian and Ukrainian news sites; silence from political leaders. Kiev: "The future of Euro-Atlantic security is being decided in Ukraine". Francis' request recalls his interventions for Syria. The support of Ukrainian Greek Catholics.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - All Russian and Ukrainian news sites have taken up Pope Francis' appeal issued on Sunday January 23 after the Angelus to pray for peace in Ukraine. So far, however, no political leader has wished to comment on the pontiff's words.
The fear of the start of hostilities is linked to the massive military deployment of the Russians along the entire border line with Ukraine, including on the Belarusian side. The embassies in Washington and London (but not those of the EU countries) have begun to evacuate some diplomats and their families; the Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dmitrij Kuleba, declared on TV that "the future of Euro-Atlantic security is being decided in Ukraine". In Tbilisi, Georgia, parades marched in solidarity with their neighbours, with anti-Russian placards reading "They will not stop Ukraine".
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj calls for calm, but the national security services are preparing the entire population for armed resistance, and are in turn sending heavy military convoys to the two separatist republics of the Donbass (Donetsk and Lugansk), already de facto controlled by the Russians with unofficial militias. It is precisely the Donbass that has been present in the pontiff's concerns since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, this being the most tormented area with a high number of victims in recent years.
According to data from the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, over 13,000 people have died in Ukraine in seven years of "hybrid war", most of them in the Donbass. Already on 26 July 2020, Pope Francis had asked at the Angelus to maintain the "ceasefire" in the region, and to work for "an effective process of disarmament and removal of mines". The Holy Father has supported several humanitarian initiatives for the inhabitants of Donbass, who are largely deprived of their homes and livelihoods.
In Sunday's prayer, the pope in turn stressed the danger of a war that could involve not only the two contending countries, but also neighbouring countries and the whole of Europe, triggering an uncontrollable process for the entire world. Francis' request is reminiscent of his interventions for Syria, which had led to the ideological gathering of all the faithful on the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Syria, on 7 September 2013. About Syria, and also Ukraine, the pope had spoken with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow (Gundjaev), during the 12 February 2016 meeting in Havana. It was precisely pacification and humanitarian aid to the victims that had been the main motivation for the historic Cuban embrace.
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholics, Major Archbishop Svjatoslav (Ševčuk), addressed a heartfelt homily to the faithful gathered in Kiev, just as the Pope was reciting the Angelus prayer in Rome. Commenting on the readings for the feast of the Epiphany, he proclaimed that "today we read of the liberation from darkness, of the possibility of seeing a great light, and we also look at the dramatic situation in our country in another way". After his baptism in the Jordan, Jesus himself had to resist the devil's temptations in the desert, fasting for 40 days and 40 nights.
"Today we live in great fear and great uncertainty", continued Svyatoslav (see photo), "but with Ukraine the whole world is united; we have heard the appeal of all the Catholic bishops of Europe, and those of the bishops of Ukraine and Poland. Those who support peace do not remain in the shadow of death, unlike those who bow to the Moloch of war. We thank the Lord God that through us, Christians of Ukraine, he continues to enlighten our people and our nation".
Ševčuk invited everyone to join the day of prayer announced by Pope Francis, the Roman secretariat of the Major Archbishop announced. The Zhive.tv platform will broadcast a prayer vigil throughout the day.