Around the world, convents and monasteries have pledged to offer up their prayer and fasting on Ash Wednesday for an end to the increasing violence in Ukraine – which has now led to more than 100 civilian deaths.
With Russian troops amassing on Ukraine’s border on 23rd February, Pope Francis called for Ash Wednesday (2nd March) to be a day of intercession for peace – and Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) responded to the papal initiative by asking the contemplative orders it is in contact with to add their support to the campaign.
Carmelite Sisters in Sarajevo, who themselves lived through conflict, were among those promising to pray for an end to the violence – not only on Ash Wednesday but on the days leading up to it.
A message from the Sisters said: “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.
“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.
“From today until Wednesday we will have continuous adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for this important prayer request… Let us pray together. Prayer works wonders.”
Support for the campaign is global. Sisters in Peru said: “Count on our poor prayers, we are making special prayers and intercessions for this intention.”
And the Poor Clares in Lusaka, Zambia told 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.”
ACN has received assurances of support from religious communities in other countries, including Sri Lanka, Mozambique, India, Angola and Brazil.
Dr Thomas Heine-Geldern, international executive president of ACN, asked everyone to intercede for Ukraine on Ash Wednesday.
He said: “Faced with the horror of this war in Ukraine, Pope Francis called on [us to use] the most powerful weapon of all – prayer.
“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.
“The fact that these messages are arriving from so many different countries and continents is a clear example of the Church’s vision of humanity as a family which prays together and lives according to the laws of love, and not of power.”
Following the start of the Russian invasion last week, ACN immediately sent €1 million (more than £830,000) to support the work of Ukraine’s priests and religious.