One year after the Russian Federation’s aggression that provoked the war that is still ongoing in Ukraine, the President of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, the Archbishop of Vilnius Gintaras Grušas, renews his appeal to the international community to work to silence the weapons and stop this conflict.
The European bishops and Christian communities continue to pray for the victims of this war and their families: throughout the Lenten season, Holy Mass will be celebrated in each country throughout Europe in turn to invoke peace in Ukraine and pray for those who have died as a result of the war. They are close to those suffering from these acts of violence and they have joined in a network of solidarity to support the Ukrainian people. In fact, over the course of this year, many Christian communities have opened their homes to those fleeing the war and many bishops and delegations have travelled to the Ukraine as a concrete sign of the Church’s proximity.
While international law is being trampled underfoot in a terrible war scenario, all believers in Christ, and people of goodwill, are called to strive to be builders of peace. In his post-synodal exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, the 20th anniversary of which falls this year, St John Paul II prophetically emphasised that “Europe, with all its inhabitants, needs to work tirelessly to build peace within its borders and throughout the world”. Furthermore, he also recalled that “national differences ought to be maintained and encouraged as the foundation of European solidarity” and that “national identity itself can only be achieved in openness towards other peoples and through solidarity with them” (no.112).
Since the beginning of the war, the Churches in Europe have been calling for a peace in Ukraine that would result in an immediate end to hostilities and a concrete commitment to restore justice, thus starting a true path of reconciliation.
While we look with bitterness at the present wounds, we urge everyone to continue the solidarity effort that is already underway to support the Ukrainian people. We wish also, as of now, to commit ourselves to building a Europe finally reconciled in a just peace achieved through the efforts of all. We do this in the certainty of Christ’s Resurrection, and with the knowledge that He is the hope of Europe.
From St. Gallen, where the meeting on pastoral care for Ukrainian refugees in Europe and prayers for peace are taking place today, together with the Ukrainian bishops, priests and lay people present, we join in the appeal that Pope Francis made at the beginning of Lent that “those with authority over nations make a concrete commitment to ending the conflict, reaching a ceasefire and starting peace negotiations”. One that is “built on rubble – the Pope reiterated – will never be a true victory”.
Saint Gallen, 24 February 2023