June 23, 2022
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Two Shepherds Call for Peace

Two Shepherds Call for Peace

The recent invasion of Ukraine at the hands of Russian forces brought heaps of condemnation worldwide. This barbaric act, plainly violating the legitimate sovereignty of a country and its people who have the right to determine its future, not only did not go unnoticed but it immediately met harsh criticism and utter rejection.

Given the full-scale effect of such an aggressive act, Two Christian Shepherds felt it was their duty to speak up. Both leaders represent the two sides and faces of the Church, the Western as well as the Easter side. It is interesting to go deeper into what they actually said. I am presenting them by order of their expression. It was Pope Francis, the Western Patriarch and Bishop of Rome, who spoke first. Then he was followed by the other Patriarch, the Eastern one, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

Precisely after his catechesis of Wednesday 23 February 2022, given at Paul VI Audience Hall, Pope Francis made the subsequent appeal:

My heart aches greatly at the worsening situation in Ukraine. Despite the diplomatic efforts of the last few weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up. Like me, many people all over the world are feeling anguish and concern. Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests. I would like to appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war; who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies. I pray that all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilising coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute.

And now I would like to appeal to everyone, believers and non-believers alike. Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God’s weapons, with prayer and fasting. I invite everyone to make next 2 March, Ash Wednesday, a Day of Fasting for Peace. I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.

The day after, namely Thursday 24 March 2022, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia issued an address to the hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and all faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church which said:

Your Beatitude! Your Eminences and Graces! Dear fathers, brothers, and sisters!

I take the suffering of people caused by the events taking place with deep and heartfelt pain.

As the Patriarch of All Russia and the primate of a Church whose flock is located in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries, I deeply empathize with everyone affected by this tragedy.

I call on all parties to the conflict to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.

I appeal to the bishops, pastors, monastics, and laity to provide all possible assistance to all victims, including refugees and people left homeless and without means of livelihood.

The Russian and Ukrainian peoples have a common centuries-old history dating back to the Baptism of Rus’ by Prince St. Vladimir the Equal-to-the-Apostles. I believe that this God-given affinity will help overcome the divisions and disagreements that have arisen that have led to the current conflict.

I call on the entire fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church to offer a special, fervent prayer for the speedy restoration of peace.

May the All-merciful Lord, through the intercession of our Most Pure Lady the Theotokos and all the saints, preserve the Russian, Ukrainian, and other peoples who are spiritually united by our Church!

Both Shepherds acknowledge not just the suffering people are going through at the moment in Ukraine but also make it their own. Pope Francis said: My heart aches greatly at the worsening situation in Ukraine whereas Kirill said: I take the suffering of people caused by the events taking place with deep and heartfelt pain. Then, Pope Francis lamented the failure of the art of diplomacy in this serious matter: Despite the diplomatic efforts of the last few weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up. On the other hand, for Kirill, his responsibility as the head of the Russian Church as present in Russia, Ukraine and other countries, impelled him to speak up. He said: As the Patriarch of All Russia and the primate of a Church whose flock is located in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries, I deeply empathize with everyone affected by this tragedy.

Both patriarchs called on for the avoidance of conflict, especially as it is of enormous detriment to the civilian population. It is interesting though that Pope Francis connected it with those responsible for the political decisions whose decisions brought them in this situation. He said: I pray that all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilising coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute. On the other hand Kirill was more succinct in appealing to those involved in the conflict to stop and avoid civilian casualties. He said: I call on all parties to the conflict to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties.

While Kirill remained on the surface by referring indirectly to the political leaders to take their responsibility and halt the bloodshed Francis was more specific and mentioned this category of people by their name and detailing what they should do in this situation of immense humanitarian crisis. He said: Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests. I would like to appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war; who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies.

The element of brothers is highlighted also by Kirill when he referred to the fact that Ukrainian and Russian peoples are brothers who knew their fraternal bonds at the baptismal font of St Vladimir. He said: The Russian and Ukrainian peoples have a common centuries-old history dating back to the Baptism of Rus’ by Prince St. Vladimir the Equal-to-the-Apostles. I believe that this God-given affinity will help overcome the divisions and disagreements that have arisen that have led to the current conflict.

Hence, for Pope Francis it is the political leaders’ examinations of conscience that should bring them to unity whereas for Patriarch Kirill it is their common baptism of Prince St Vladimir, the Prince of both peoples, which brings the affinity between the two peoples and offers them the necessary force to seek reconciliation. In both statements, faith and politics go together.

Another interesting point is that, besides the usual appeal to prayer from all in the Church, for Kirill the present situation calls for the bishops, priests, monks and laity to show their practical solidarity with those who are suffering. He said: I appeal to the bishops, pastors, monastics, and laity to provide all possible assistance to all victims, including refugees and people left homeless and without means of livelihood.After this exhortation, a third statement down he appealed: I call on the entire fullness of the Russian Orthodox Church to offer a special, fervent prayer for the speedy restoration of peace.

Pope Francis reminded us that the current catastrophic situation is the work of the devil. That is why we need to counter him with fasting and prayer. He purposely chose a day, 2 March 2022, the beginning of Lent, to show this spiritual solidarity of a Church at prayer. This appeal was addressed to believers and non-believers alike. He said: And now I would like to appeal to everyone, believers and non-believers alike. Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God’s weapons, with prayer and fasting. I invite everyone to make next 2 March, Ash Wednesday, a Day of Fasting for Peace. I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day.

The Pope ended his appeal by invoking Mary, the Queen of Peace, to protect the world from the senselessness of war. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war. In the Patriarch’s statement we find mentioned the Lord, Mary, and the saints to protect Russians, Ukrainian and those connected in spirit under the umbrella of the Russian Church. May the All-merciful Lord, through the intercession of our Most Pure Lady the Theotokos and all the saints, preserve the Russian, Ukrainian, and other peoples who are spiritually united by our Church!

This brief appreciation helps us understand the mind and the way of doing things between the Church of the West and the East. Taken together, both statements are powerful exhortations to live as Christians in the present challenging situation of war.

Let us now leave Heaven, through the message of Our Lady of Medjugorje given to Maria on 25 February 2022, speak by itself and addresses to both church leaders, the Church as a whole and to every human being of good will:

Dear children! I am with you, and we pray together. Help me with prayer, little children, that Satan may not prevail. his power of death, hatred, and fear has visited the earth. Therefore, little children, return to God and to prayer, to fasting and to renunciation, for all those who are downtrodden, poor, and have no voice in this world without God. Little children, if you do not return to God and His Commandments, you do not have a future. That is why He sent me to you to guide you. Thank you for having responded to my call.

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Written by
Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap

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