Kyiv, Ukraine, Mar 14, 2022 / 08:10 am (CNA).
A Ukrainian Catholic leader called on Monday for prayer and fasting to “cast out the evil spirit of war” from his homeland.
In a video message released on March 14, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk recalled that Jesus told his disciples that certain kinds of evil spirits could be cast out only through prayer and fasting.
“Therefore I encourage everyone to pray and fast in order to cast out the evil spirit of war in Ukraine and from all those who are its bearers,” he said.
“Let us fast and pray for an end to the war in Ukraine. Each one in their own way, as each one knows, as each one is able. In Ukraine and abroad, let us pray and fast for an end to this bloodshed.”
“May the merciful Lord hear our prayers, may he send his angels of light to stop the darkness that is advancing upon Ukraine.”
The leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who is based in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, also appealed for prayers for those seeking a diplomatic breakthrough to end the war.
“It is evident that the time for declarations, the time for establishing principles and other concepts, has passed. We need to look for mechanisms to stop the war,” he said, adding that he hoped God would grant wisdom to those engaging in peace talks.
The 51-year-old also thanked people who demonstrated against the war in cities across the world at the weekend.
He said: “We understand that in these circumstances there cannot be a neutral position, because the one who remains silent, the one who does not condemn this war, becomes an accomplice to this crime, becomes an accomplice to aggression and murder of innocent people in Ukraine.”
In his video message on Sunday, March 13, the major archbishop encouraged Ukrainians to go to confession in Great Lent. He said that churches across Ukraine were “open almost around the clock in order to serve our people.”
“But in a circumstance when there is no access to the minister of the Mystery of Repentance, I recall that there is the opportunity to benefit from the forgiveness of sins through a perfect act of contrition,” he said.
Shevchuk also thanked the Nordic Catholic bishops for issuing a message that “clearly and sharply condemned the aggressor and the aggression against Ukraine.”
In his video message on Saturday, March 12, he said that there were “mountains of corpses, rivers of blood, and seas of tears” in Ukraine.
“With pain in our hearts, we see how in besieged cities, for example in Mariupol, thousands of people are laid to rest without prayer, without Christian honor, without a Christian burial, in enormous, unnamed mass graves with thousands of people,” he said.
The Associated Press reported on March 14 the death of a pregnant woman who was photographed being carried on a stretcher after the bombing of a maternity ward in Mariupol, known as the “City of Mary.”
Meanwhile, President Alexander Lukashenko reportedly sent a congratulatory message to Pope Francis on March 13, on the ninth anniversary of his election. Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressed hope that he would meet the pope in person in the near future, reported Italy’s Agenzia Nova.
On Monday, the pope received Eduard Heger, the prime minister of Slovakia, a country that has received more than 200,000 people from Ukraine since the full-scale Russian invasion on Feb. 24.
The Holy See press office said that Heger also met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and “foreign minister” Archbishop Paul Gallager.
The talks included “an in-depth discussion of the war in Ukraine and its impact at regional and international level, with particular attention to the humanitarian situation and the reception of war refugees,” the press office said.
The pope met the same day with Edgars Rinkēvičs, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Latvia, which borders Russia.
Pope Francis sent two Vatican cardinals last week as papal envoys to Ukraine. Cardinal Michael Czerny, interim prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, returned to Rome on March 11, while papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski left Ukraine on March 12.
In his video message on Monday, Major Archbishop Shevchuk thanked the pope for addressing the war in his Sunday Angelus address.
“I also want to thank very much the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who once more yesterday stood in defense of the cities of the martyrs of Ukraine, in defense of the martyred city of Mariupol, where once more this night and throughout all of yesterday more than a hundred people died,” he said.
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