Pope Francis declared Wednesday, March 2nd, a day of prayer and fasting for Ukraine and the end of the conflict there. Leading this spiritual opposition to war, both on Ash Wednesday and for as long as war continues, are contemplative nuns. Women dedicated to prayer and penance have made a pledge to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) to bend God’s ear particularly on behalf of Ukraine and its peace and freedom.
The charity has received messages from contemplative communities around the world promising their spiritual solidarity with the war-torn country.
“Unfortunately, we know what it means to suffer from force and aggression both here in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Croatia. War is a horrible experience we have gone through,” the Carmelite Sisters in Sarajevo, who themselves lived through conflict, told ACN. “So, we are particularly shocked by the events in Ukraine and fervently pray to the Lord to bring peace and freedom to the Ukrainian people. Let us pray together. Prayer works wonders.”
The sisters held continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the days leading up to and including Wednesday.
The Poor Clares in Lusaka, Zambia communicated to ACN: “We want to assure you [of] our intense prayers, penance, and fasting for the peace and end of war between Ukraine and Russia. We have been following the sad events with concern and prayer, begging the Lord to have mercy.”
Messages with pledges of prayer also reached ACN from Sri Lanka, Mozambique, India, Angola, and Brazil.
“All of us are invited to join in this effort, but we Catholics know that when it comes to prayer, the contemplative communities are our own elite forces,” Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, international executive president of ACN, said, and asked everyone to intercede for Ukraine on Ash Wednesday.
ACN is actively supporting the Catholic Church and the local population in Ukraine. When the Russian invasion of Ukraine started last week, it pledged a million-euro emergency aid package to the country to support churches and monasteries that have become refugee centres for the beleaguered Ukrainian people.
The war has forced many Ukrainians to live in bomb shelters and basements, often of churches and monasteries. Even as airstrikes, bombardments, and ground battles have increased in the days since the first attacks, the clergy have remained close to their flocks.
Bishop Pavlo Honcharuk, the Latin-rite Bishop of Kharkiv-Zaporiyia, has been hunkered down in a bunker alongside several families and his Orthodox counterpart, Bishop Mytrofan.
“I wish for this war to end as quickly as possible. But, while evil has shown itself to be so strong, this has also exposed a lot of good,” he told ACN. “My message is short because we are under constant bombardment, and I am a little nervous, but we try to act normally.”
Bishop Stanislav Shyrokoradiuk, the Latin-rite Bishop of Odessa, a port city that has been under Russian attack from air and sea, said, “[W]e are living in the here and now, and the situation is critical. We will remain here, and we ask for your prayers.” All support for Ukraine, whether temporal or spiritual, is appreciated.