From Manila to Karachi, Asians pray for peace on Ash Wednesday

Across the continent, local Churches heed Pope Francis’s call to pray for peace. In the Philippines, the bishops are praying “that the Lord move the consciences of the Russian people”. In South Korea, the Archdiocese of Seoul is sending emergency aid to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Ukraine. In Myanmar, people are praying for peace in Kyiv the Diocese of Pyay. In India, Christians of all confessions pray and appeal together for a ceasefire.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Following the invitation of Pope Francis, Asia’s Catholic churches are marking today’s Ash Wednesday with fasting and prayers for peace in Ukraine and other parts of the world torn by war.

In the Philippines, the country’s Catholic bishops released a message to the faithful for the occasion, signed by Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“The Lord Himself taught us that there is no other way to combat the enticements of the devil especially among those who are obsessed with power, wealth and fame, other than prayer, fasting and acts of charity,” reads the statement.

“We also invoke the intercession of the Blessed Mother as we pray that the Lord move the consciences of the Russian people so that they themselves will be able to do the necessary steps in order to pressure their government to stop the war it has started,” it adds.

In South Korea, Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taick of Seoul sent a message of solidarity on behalf of local Catholics to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Ukraine together with emergency cash aid to help seniors and children in shelters.

After seeing “Kindergarten children sitting in the cold subway” and watching them in “the video trembling in cold and fear, it hurts my heart to see the reality of war,” wrote the prelate. Let us “Pray to the Lord for peace” and may the weapons fall silent.

In Myanmar, Bishop Alexander Pyone Cho of Pyay issued a very poignant pastoral letter. In it, he urges the faithful of his diocese to unite in prayer for Ukraine and his country, torn by conflict for more than a year.

“I urge you to practice special prayers and do fasting during the Lenten season with the intention of getting peace,” reads his letter.

In India, which saw one of its own young students killed in the bombing of Kharkiv, today’s prayers saw all Christian denominations come together.

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), the National Council of Churches of India[*] (NCCI), and the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) issued a joint statement signed by CBCI general secretary Archbishop Felix Machado of Vasai, NCCI general secretary Rev Asir Ebenezer, of, and EFI general secretary Rev Vijayesh Lal.

“Moved by the pain and suffering of the people of Ukraine caused by war, we join world leaders and the leadership of our respective global and regional communions in calling for an unconditional ceasefire,” reads the statement.

“We believe that we have a responsibility to pray for the transformation of leaders who take up arms in anger or revenge. May God’s protection and providence be upon Ukraine and Russia by which the entire region shall experience peace forever,” it went on to say.

In Pakistan Christians are also praying for peace. Fr Shahzad Arshad, rector of the St Pius X Minor Seminary in Karachi, told AsiaNews that his community today began extended Eucharistic adoration of 40 days to invoke peace between Russia and Ukraine.

In Karachi, Archbishop Benny Mario Travas led the liturgy of Ash Wednesday. During the service, he stressed the need for humility, detachment from sin, and charity towards others as the paths that Lent indicates for reconciliation within oneself and in the whole world.

(Nirmala Carvalho and Shafique Khokhar contributed to this article)

[*] The NCCI is the ecumenical for India’s Protestant and Orthodox Churches.