Cardinal calls for 'immediate' end to attacks on Ukraine
Nato has significantly expanded troop deployments in Eastern Europe in response to Russia.
Demonstrators participate in a "Stand with Ukraine" rally in the United States, February 20, 2022. - CNS photo/Sarah Silbiger, Reuters
Cardinal Vincent Nichols called for an immediate cessation of Russian attacks on Ukraine and prayed for its people.
In a statement today, the Archbishop of Westminster repeated appeals by the Pope and bishops across Europe for prayers for peace and emphasised the suffering of the Ukrainian people, praying “for their strength and perseverance under this onslaught”. He warned of the plight of refugees from the conflict and “the humanitarian crisis which will inevitably follow”.
The Anglican archbishops of England and Wales have called the invasion “an act of great evil”. A joint statement from Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York, called for an urgent ceasefire and supported Pope Francis’s declaration of a Ash Wednesday as a day of prayer and fasting for peace.
Russian troops invaded Ukraine early this morning, when Vladimir Putin announced a “military operation” after claiming that his forces were acting as peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine. There have been bomb and missile attacks across the country, aircraft have been shot down, and Russian convoys have crossed the border.
Large numbers of civilians are fleeing the country, while the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has offered to issue weapons to any citizen willing to contribute to national defence.
Cardinal Nichols called on the international community to seek an end to the conflict through peaceful means “as the only way forward”. “It is their responsibility to ensure that international law and territorial sovereignty are respected,” he said. He will be celebrating Mass in Westminster Cathedral at 10am on Sunday, 27 February, for these intentions.
Western allies have already imposed punitive sanctions on the Russian regime, with measures affecting state companies and oligarchs close to Putin. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, today promised a further package of sanctions “to hobble the Russian economy”, describing the attack as a “hideous and barbaric venture” which “must end in failure”.
Other European leaders have also condemned Russia, the French President Emmanuel Macron saying its actions would have “durable and deep” consequences while Ursula Von Der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, has outlined sanctions which will “seriously degrade the Russian economy”.
Nato has massively increased its deployment in Eastern Europe. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said this was “among the darkest hours for Europe since World War Two”.
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, has warned that “the whole of Ukraine risks becoming a death camp” in a letter read out by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti to the Italian bishops’ conference. He had been due to attend a meeting with the Italian bishops today, but elected to remain in Kiev.
Matthew Carter, chief executive of Depaul International, said: “We are horrified to see Russian troops have now launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. We stand firm in our commitment to supporting the most marginalised and vulnerable people, and are deeply concerned for the millions who are facing the possibility of losing their homes and lives in a large scale humanitarian crisis. We are in constant contact with our staff at Depaul Ukraine, who are safe and well, and working to keep our services open as much as possible, disseminating information to those living on the streets, as well as providing emergency shelter, accommodation, food, medical and legal services. We continue to implore all parties to reach for peace, not arms, and for humanity to prevail.”
Tetiana Stawnychy, president of Caritas Ukraine, said: “The events which began early this morning will inevitably lead to a colossal humanitarian catastrophe. It is impossible to believe that in the 21st century in the centre of Europe people have to wake up at 5am from explosions and the sound of air raid sirens.” Caritas is deeply concerned about the impact of this intervention on the local population, who have already been living in a critical condition eight years after the start of the crisis that killed 14,000 people and displaced another 1.5 million, she added.
Aid to the Church in Need rushed through plans to send €1 million (more than £830,000) to help the Church in Ukraine.
Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk of Kharkiv, one of the dioceses in eastern Ukraine that ACN is supporting with emergency help, said: “The situation is getting worse every day. We live now from hour to hour. Prices are rising, especially for essential goods. The situation in the diocese is very difficult. The number of faithful has decreased and those remaining, unfortunately, cannot maintain the parishes or support the priests. They come themselves and ask for help from the priests and sisters.”