In Japan bishops condemn the Russian invasion citing John Paul II who in Hiroshima said that, “resorting to war is neither inevitable nor indispensable”. Likewise, “We really pray ardently that everybody sees the senselessness of violence,” said Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay. In China Catholics will heed the appeal Pope Francis made for a day of fasting and prayer on 2 March.
Milan (AsiaNews) – Christians are mobilising for peace in the face of the increasingly tragic news about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. And the mobilisation is not limited to Europe.
In Asia, a continent still torn by other major conflicts, Catholic Churches responded right away to Pope Francis’s call for prayer, inviting their members to fast and pray to stop weapons from sowing death.
Always particularly sensitive to the issue of peace, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Japan was among the first to take a position as soon as Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine.
In a statement signed by Bishop Bernard Taiji Katsuya of Sapporo, who is also president of the Catholic Council for Justice and Peace, the Catholic Church of Japan called the Russian invasion an act contrary to international law.
For the prelate, “no real problem can be solved by force” as Pope John Paul II indicated in his appeal for peace made on 25 February 1981 in Hiroshima, symbol of the danger of nuclear holocaust that is now back in the news.
“We should say that resorting to war is neither inevitable nor indispensable in front of the disaster that man makes when he starts wars,” Bishop Katsuya explained.
“Humanity is not destined for self-destruction. Differences in ideology, national purpose, and in what people seek must be resolved by other means than war or violence. Humanity is worthy of peacefully resolving differences and conflicts.”
Speaking about the pope’s words, the bishop of Sapporo noted that humanity in the 21st century is facing “serious problems” such as “pandemics and climate change” that it must solve together rather than through the “use military force”.
"The Catholic Council for Justice and Peace opposes the use of force,” he insisted. To this end, “I call on citizens around the world to stop the spread of war” and “minimise the damage.”
“We call on government around the world in particular to abandon the idea of war deterrence through military alliances and [urge them to] make the utmost efforts to build peace through dialogue.”
In India too, Catholic Churches are praying for peace in Ukraine. “It is a sad moment when there is conflict,” said Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), speaking to AsiaNews in a video.
“I do hope that peace prevails in that whole area”, and that things do “not lead to escalation of [the] conflict or loss of life.
“We really pray ardently that everybody sees the senselessness of violence and the necessity of peace to make a better world. The Church in India will pray, and I’m going to write to all the bishops.”
“In all our churches we will have a special prayer for peace because this has got the danger of the possibility of escalation which should not happen. [. . .] We were hoping there will be peace and are confident with the Lord’s grace. [. . .] With the good will on the part of everybody peace will return.”
“The pope has called on the entire people of God to pray for peace,” said CBCI general secretary Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai. “In today’s world, war is not contained in a particular area. Our hearts go out to the suffering people, so much suffering and the consequences for all of us. May the Lord have mercy on us all”.
“We are praying for Peace,” said Mother Gemma OCD, Prioress, Carmel Ashram Baroda. “We have our monastery in Kyiv and Kharkiv, and our Sisters have decided to remain in their monasteries. Our sisters in Kharkiv, Ukraine, are only 25 miles from the Russian border. At present they are safe. We pray for and with them for peace.”
In Hong Kong, Bishop Stephen Chow Sau Yan, released a message for the faithful on what is happening in Europe. In it he writes: “The military manoeuvres and the manipulation of political powers are shattering the Ukrainians’ hope for peace and stability in their homeland.
“While we are battling against the fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Hong Kong, we cannot ignore the pains that another pandemic of egoism and hegemonic mentality is inflicting on our world. We are citizens of the global village, and our well-being is intimately intertwined.
“Let us offer our sincere prayers for those in Hong Kong and throughout the world who are struck by these two pandemics.
“Hence, we must call on our merciful God to touch in-depth the hearts of the ones who have the power to revert this tragic trajectory to restore hope for peace in our world. And that empathic dialogues will start sooner among the parties involved.”
In mainland China as well, people are praying in churches in communion with the pope for peace in Ukraine.
In Hebei, the Xinde website, widely followed by Catholics across China, picked up the appeal published by AsiaNews (Chinese edition) that Pope Francis made during the general audience last Wednesday in the Vatican for a day of fasting and prayer on 2 March, Ash Wednesday.
(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this article)