Pope invited to visit Ukraine to help bring peace

Pope invited to Ukraine

Pope Francis has been invited to Ukraine by the leader of the country’s Eastern-rite Catholics who said it would be a huge gesture to help bring peace at a time of tension with Russia.

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk said there was no need to wait for conditions to be ideal, and the visit could take place even in the current circumstances.

Shevchuk said he had invited the Holy Father to visit Ukraine several times previously. “We are hopeful. Gestures are very important, and visiting Ukraine would be a very strong gesture for all of humanity”.

Ukraine is predominately Orthodox, but about 10% of the population belong to the Eastern, or Byzantine-rite, Catholic Church whose followers are in allegiance with Rome.

Russia has massed troops near Ukraine but denies planning an attack.

“There is a consensus in Ukraine, not just among Catholics but also among Orthodox and even non-believers, that Pope Francis is the most important moral authority in the world today,” Shevchuk said in Italian.

“The people say that if the pope comes to Ukraine, the war will end. They see the gesture of a papal visit as one of a messenger of peace”.

On January 26, Francis led an international day of prayer for peace in Ukraine, calling for dialogue to prevail over partisan interests.

A Rhode Island priest is showing solidarity with the plight of the people of the overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian nation.

“Russia is surrounding Ukraine with troops. What else can I do but pray?” said Father Thomas O’Neill, 79, a senior priest of the Diocese of Providence.

Father O’Neill embarked on a pilgrimage of prayer as he rode his bicycle from Middletown to St Patrick Church in Providence in late January.

He stopped at churches along the way to offer prayers for peace in the region.

He expressed his solidarity with the Ukrainian people, noting it is not just geopolitics at work but also Catholic social teaching.

“It’s an issue of democracy; it’s an issue of citizenship,” he said.



Catholic News Service

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