Kyiv, Ukraine, Mar 2, 2022 / 07:30 am (CNA).
The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church expressed hope on Wednesday that a global day of prayer and fasting would help to bring peace to Ukraine.
In a video message recorded in the besieged Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said that March 2 was a special day for Ukrainians because of Pope Francis’ call for worldwide prayer for peace.
He said that the pope’s initiative, which fell on Ash Wednesday, meant that “we feel that in our misery we are not alone.”
He prayed: “O God, receive our fasting and prayer! O God, unite us all! May life conquer death, and may the common prayer of the whole world bring peace to Ukraine.”
The 51-year-old was speaking on the seventh day of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, an Eastern European country of 44 million people.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, around 660,000 refugees have fled Ukraine — which borders Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, and Russia — since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces to advance on Feb. 24.
Thousands of people were killed in the first six days of fighting, including more than 100 Ukrainian civilians.
Satellite images indicate that a 40 mile-long Russian military convoy is heading toward Kyiv, where the major archbishop is sheltering with others under the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Cathedral of the Resurrection.
On March 1, an airstrike hit Kyiv’s main television tower, damaging the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial, which marks a mass grave containing the remains of more than 33,000 Jews murdered in 1941 by Nazi German forces.
Referring to recent attacks on the city of Zhytomyr in northern Ukraine (see photos above), Shevchuk said: “Last night they bombarded our Zhytomyr, they continued to shoot at our cities and villages.”
He continued: “We are particularly worried about Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Kherson, and other Ukrainian cities that are under siege, where today there is a great shortage of food and medicine. Today, abstaining from food, we stand in solidarity with them.”
The major archbishop said that he had received messages from all over the world with assurances of prayer.
In neighboring Belarus, where the government is closely allied with Moscow, Catholics will take part in a prayer vigil for peace on Wednesday at the Cathedral of the Holy Name of Mary in Minsk.
In Poland, where more than 450,000 people from Ukraine have sought refuge, collections will be held at all Masses to support refugees.
Shevchuk invited Ukrainians to take part in a prayer marathon, known as “Ukraine under the protection of the Mother of God,” beginning in Pokotylivka, eastern Ukraine, and including cities in other parts of the country such as Odesa, Drohobych, and Kyiv.
“Today we pray and fast together. Fasting means breaking all that divides us, all that hinders me from sharing my life with others. That is why this fast is so important: to cast out the one who divides, the Devil, the spirit of war, the spirit of death,” the major archbishop said.
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