Pope Francis urged fasting and prayer for peace in Ukraine after he made a rare visit to Rome’s Russian Embassy last Friday to expound his concern regarding Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Generally, heads of state and ambassadors are received by the Pope in the Vatican, so the Pope’s visit to the embassy likely demonstrates his strong feelings regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Vatican officials reported that they are unaware of such previous initiative.
Hindustan Times reports:
Francis is the Vatican head of state, and for him to leave the walled city state and travel a short distance to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See was a sign of his anger at Moscow’s invasion and his willingness to appeal personally for an end to it.
Pope Francis went to the Russian Embassy on Friday to personally “express his concern about the war” in Ukraine, in an extraordinary, hands-on papal gesture that has no recent precedent. Francis later assured a top Ukrainian Greek Catholic leader he would do “everything I can” to help.
Usually, popes receive ambassadors and heads of state in the Vatican, and diplomatic protocol would have called for the Vatican foreign minister to summon the Russian ambassador. Francis is the Vatican head of state, and for him to leave the walled city state and travel a short distance to the Russian Embassy to the Holy See was a sign of his anger at Moscow’s invasion and his willingness to appeal personally for an end to it.
Vatican officials said they knew of no such previous papal initiative.
Francis further recommended a conflab to resolve the conflict and also asked the faithful to observe fasting and engage in praying on Ash Wednesday for peace to prevail in Ukraine.
Francis has called for dialogue to end the conflict and has urged the faithful to set next Wednesday as a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Ukraine. But he has refrained from publicly calling out Russia by name, presumably for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church.
Just this week, at the end of his Wednesday general audience, he refrained from naming Russia when he urged political leaders to examine their conscience before God and avoid actions that harm civilians and “discredit international law.”
The Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church has appreciated the support and concern expressed by the Pope.
The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, the largest Eastern Rite church in communion with Rome, welcomed Francis’ protocol-bending diplomatic intervention and said he hoped it would help dialogue prevail over force.
His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk said the pope later phoned him in Kyiv and assured him “I will do everything I can.”
Shevchuk, who has hunkered down in a bunker under his cathedral along with Ukrainian civilians seeking shelter, said Francis inquired during the call about the plight of clerics in the hardest-hit areas of Ukraine.
The pope thanked the Greek Catholic Church leader for opening the doors of the cathedral and staying with his flock, Shevchuk’s office said in a statement.
Francis assured Shevchuk of his support and prayers for Ukraine and its “suffering people,” the statement said.
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