Issued by the Catholic Center for Studies and Media - Jordan. Editor-in-chief Fr. Rif'at Bader - موقع أبونا

Published on Tuesday, 27 February 2024
Pope Francis’ tireless prayer for peace for “martyred Ukraine”
Pope Francis has never tired of lifting his prayers and launching appeals for peace in Ukraine over the past two years as the nation is trapped in the "madness" of war.

Isabella Piro/ :

Pope Francis has consistently and passionately raised his prayers to the Lord over the past two years, invoking peace for Ukraine amid the prolonged conflict, stating that "war is always a defeat, always." He describes it as a "true human defeat" because only the "manufacturers of weapons" emerge as winners. The Pope frequently uses the term "tormented" to characterize the country disrupted by the thunder of bombs since February 24, 2022. Since that fateful day, with a "broken heart," the Pope has encouraged prayers for peace on every possible occasion.


Days of Prayer


Several Days of Prayer have been proclaimed during these two years. The first, on January 26, 2022, coincided with rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine, causing significant concern. A second moment of prayer and fasting followed a few months later on March 2, Ash Wednesday, with Pope Francis urging believers to "feel like brothers" and to "implore God to end the war." On March 25, 2022, the Pope directed the same supplication to the Mother of God during a penitential celebration at St. Peter's Basilica, consecrating Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Against the backdrop of a "ferocious war" causing suffering, fear, and dismay in many, the Pope emphasized the need for the presence of God and the certainty of divine forgiveness. The following year, on October 27, 2023, another Day of Penance, Fasting, and Prayer saw Pope Francis imploring the help of Mary to achieve peace. He prayed  "Mother of mercy, we appeal for mercy! Queen of Peace, we appeal for peace! Touch the hearts of those imprisoned by hatred; convert those who fuel and foment conflict. Dry the tears of children – at this hour, so many are weeping! – be present to those who are elderly and alone; strengthen the wounded and the sick; protect those forced to leave their lands and their loved ones; console the crestfallen; awaken new hope."  


Appeals for negotiations


The last two years in Ukraine have been marked by tragic milestones of horror and death. On April 24, 2022, Easter according to the Julian calendar, coincided with exactly two months since the outbreak of the conflict. Once again, at the end of the Regina Coeli, Pope Francis urged everyone to "increase prayer for peace and to have the courage to say, to show that peace is possible." Two months later, on June 5, the Solemnity of Pentecost, the war in Ukraine reached the dramatic "turning point" of a hundred days. Pope Francis reiterated his appeal to "Let true negotiations take place, real talks for a ceasefire and for a sustainable solution." He stressed the importance of listening to the "desperate cry of the suffering people" and having respect for human life, declaring war as a "nightmare, which is the negation of God's dream."


Letter to the people of Ukraine


Months passed, and journalists continued to write bitter pages of tears and destruction. On August 24, 2022, marking the beginning of the sixth month of conflict, another dramatic milestone for Ukraine, Pope Francis, at the end of the Wednesday General Audience, directed his thoughts to the country, emphasizing, "War is madness," praying for prisoners, the wounded, children, refugees, and the "so many innocents" paying the price for this madness. November arrived, marking nine months of the war, prompting Pope Francis to write a letter to the Ukrainian people, referring to them as "a noble people of martyrs," assuring them of his closeness "in heart and prayer." He also issued a warning for all peoples: "Never become inured to war."


War is destruction


Between late 2022 and early 2023, the Pope's appeals to "silence the weapons" and end this "senseless war" continued relentlessly. On February 24, 2023, exactly one year into the conflict, Pope Francis, in the Vatican, attended the screening of the documentary "Freedom on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom" by film director Evgeny Afineevsky. "Today - he said - marks a year of this war; let's look at Ukraine, pray for the Ukrainians, and open our hearts to pain. Let us not be ashamed to suffer and weep, for war is destruction, a war always diminishes us."


Black Sea grain crisis


Months passed, and another summer arrived, still under the shadow of bombs. Pope Francis never forgot Ukraine's dire humanitarian situation, worsened by the halt of the Black Sea initiative for grain transportation. On July 30, 2023, during the Angelus, he reminded the world that "the war is destroying everything, even grain," and this he said, represents  "a grave offence to God" because grain is "a gift to feed humanity." He urged people to listen to "the cry of millions of brothers and sisters who suffer hunger," a cry that "rises up to Heaven."


The suffering of children


Pope Francis recalled Ukraine's "dimension of martyrdom" on September 6, 2023, during an audience with bishops of the Synod of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. Expressing closeness and participation, he conveyed his "sorrow for the sense of helplessness felt in the face of war," especially because one of its saddest outcomes is "taking the smile from children." The same concerns for "a situation that seems increasingly desperate" were expressed by the Pope at the beginning of 2024, in a letter to the Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halyč, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, expressing his hope that Ukraine does not become a "forgotten war" and that the international community may engage "in the search for peaceful solutions."


Appeal to diplomats


The same exhortation resonated on January 8 of this year, during the audience with the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See: "Sadly, after nearly two years of large-scale war waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, the greatly desired peace has not yet managed to take root in minds and hearts, despite the great numbers of victims and the massive destruction. One cannot allow the persistence of a conflict that continues to metastasize, to the detriment of millions of persons; it is necessary to put an end to the present tragedy through negotiations, in respect for international law."


Vatican diplomacy


In addition to prayers and exhortations, Pope Francis has taken personal action in the name of peace, maintaining a balanced approach to the parties involved. On February 25, 2022, he visited the Embassy of the Russian Federation to the Holy See, expressing concern over the war's outbreak. A few days later, on March 16, he held a virtual meeting with the Orthodox Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, united in the desire to "stop the fire" of war, motivated "by the will to indicate, as shepherds of their people, a path to peace." Over the months, there were several telephone conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was received by the Pope in an audience in May 2023.


The Pope's efforts to end the conflict also involved Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, who traveled as the Pope's Special Envoy to Russia, the United States, and China in 2023. These missions aimed to initiate paths of peace, a hope never abandoned by Pope Francis.


Additionally, two other cardinals, Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner, and Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, were sent by the Pope to Ukraine as his representatives, bringing solidarity and support to refugees and war victims. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, also visited Vorzel, Irpin, and Bucha in May 2023, praying before a mass grave near the Orthodox Church of St. Andrew, and emphasizing, in line with the Pope, the "atrocity and ferociousness of war."