Caritas volunteers assist a Ukrainian refugee at the Caritas Hungary refugee center in Barabás, Hungary, March 10, 2022. More than 214,000 Ukrainians have fled to Hungary, according to a March 8 statistic from the U.N. Refugee Agency. (CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves)

BARABÁS, Hungary (CNS) – As millions of Ukrainian refugees continue to flee the ongoing violence of Russian aggression, many have found some comfort in neighboring Hungary thanks to the efforts of Caritas.

Arriving in the border town of Barabás, refugees are immediately taken to the charitable organization’s makeshift refugee center, where they are given shelter, a hot meal and much needed rest after a harrowing journey.

In general, “we are hosting between 300-400 people” daily since the start of the war, said Balint Vadasz, Caritas Hungary’s head of emergency response.

Since the Russian attack began at the end of February, some 2,000 refugees have crossed the border into Barabás. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, as of March 9, more than 214,000 people have fled Ukraine to Hungary.

“Here we are trying to help them to move forward, to plan their future and, if necessary, to transport them to the central train station, where they can travel for free in Hungary,” Vadasz told Catholic News Service March 10.

At the refugee center, new arrivals laid down and rested on cots set up in a hall for them. Nearby, tables were laden with sandwiches, beverages, cookies as well as toys and plush animals for the kids.

The walls are decorated with dozens of pictures drawn by the many children who have passed through the refugee center. The drawings feature butterflies, flowers and families holding hands. Yet, many of the pictures also revealed the children’s longing for their homeland, shown in drawings of hearts colored with the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag.

Some of the 62 refugees that arrived the morning of March 10 were napping, exhausted from their ordeal while children talked excitedly as they snacked on sweets, drew in coloring books or played games.

Their parents, however, looked on with concern and uncertainty about the future. A young father stared blankly at his son playing with a toy while a mother at the other end of the hall looked through her phone as her baby slept peacefully on a cot.

“It’s really hard to see these people, to see that pain,” Bettina Vig, a Caritas volunteer, told CNS. “But I think they still don’t yet realize their situation.”

Vig said she hoped Russia’s attack on Ukraine would “stop as soon as possible and that they realize they are wasting lives.”

Another volunteer, Ditta Krajcsovicz, recalled one woman, who arrived with her small son at the center, and said she had had only had three hours to pack their lives in a small backpack before Russian bombs started to fall.

“It was really hard to see how they were like,” Krajcsovicz told CNS. “They had no sadness in their faces but still, you could see it in their eyes; they don’t know what is happening or where they would go. They just had three hours to pack one backpack. That was pretty tough for me” to see.

Gasz Mihaly, who began volunteering a week earlier and helps in between his university studies, said he was inspired by the spirit of service in his family, many of whom are doctors.

On his first day at the refugee center, he received a Facebook message from a Ukrainian man living in the United Arab Emirates who wanted to know if Mihaly could get him a ride to one of the towns along the Hungary-Ukraine border.

The man, he said, planned to fly to Hungary and enter Ukraine to fight against the Russians.

“That really touched me. He had a safe and beautiful life in the Emirates and came back to fight in the war. I thought that if I were in his position, I wouldn’t be able to do that.”

Yet for Mihaly, the heart-wrenching stories of some of the people fleeing to Hungary left a lasting impression.

“There was a guy who came by, dressed in a tie and a very beautiful suit,” he recalled. “He came up to me, very shy, and said, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have money to go to Budapest. Can you take me to the train station?'”

Others, Mihaly said, arrived in Barabás with no hope of ever returning to their homeland.

“There was someone who came here today and said that he would not return to Ukraine because all that he had there was destroyed by the bombings. So now, he has to start a new life and he is over 50 years old,” he said.

Despite the sorrow and despair he continues to witness at the refugee center, Mihaly told CNS that he still holds onto hope for peace in Ukraine.

“I really think that the war will end soon and everyone who wants can go back,” he said. “And they will have the opportunity and the help of the West to rebuild their homes and rebuild their society.”

People prepare donations from Vatican employees for Ukraine outside the Governatorato, a building housing the Vatican’s governing offices, at the Vatican March 7, 2022. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)


VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As the Russian military continues to bombard Ukraine, the Vatican is mobilizing efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to those suffering.

After Pope Francis’ announcement that he was sending two cardinals to Ukraine, the Vatican said March 7 that Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, papal almoner, and Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, interim president of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, intend to reach Ukraine “in the coming days,” depending on the situation.

“Cardinal Krajewski is on his way now, March 7, toward the Polish-Ukraine border where he will visit refugees and volunteers in shelters and homes,” the Vatican said. Cardinal Czerny was to arrive in Hungary March 8 “to visit some reception centers for the migrants coming from Ukraine,” the Vatican said.

“The cardinals will bring aid to the needy and serve as the presence not only of the pope, but of all the Christian people who express solidarity with the people of Ukraine,” the statement said.

According to the Vatican, Cardinal Czerny also intends to raise concerns regarding the treatment of African and Asian residents in Ukraine. Many have reported acts of discrimination against them as they attempt to flee the country.

“There are also worrisome reports of increasing activities of human trafficking and smuggling of migrants at the borders and in the neighboring countries,” the statement said.

The office of the papal almoner also organized a collection March 7 in Vatican City for employees who wished to donate food and medicine. The collection, the office said, “will be immediately sent to Ukraine through the Basilica of Saint Sophia, the church of the Ukrainians in Rome.”

Before announcing the cardinals’ mission to Ukraine, Pope Francis condemned the war in Ukraine, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly called “a special military operation.”

“Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine. It is not merely a military operation, but a war, which sows death, destruction and misery,” the pope said March 6.

In a video message released March 7, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, thanked the pope for “clearly and distinctly” saying that “this is not some kind of operation; this is a war.”

It is a “war, first of all, against peaceful people; against the peaceful population,” Archbishop Shevchuk said.

He also said that his “heart was in anguish” for his diocese where “vicious battles are taking place in the suburbs.”

The cities of Irpin, Hostomel and Bucha, he said, “have become extensive and horrible battlefields” less than 10 miles from the center of Kyiv.

He also echoed calls made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for Western leaders to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent further Russian bombardments.

Both the Biden administration and NATO leaders have rejected enforcing a no-fly zone out of fears that it will expand the war outside of Ukraine.

“Today, we ask the world community: Close the sky over Ukraine!” Archbishop Shevchuk said. “Russian cruise missiles are today killing the peaceful population on our lands.”


March 4, 2022

WASHINGTON – As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace offered the following statement:

“On February 24, the world watched in horror as Russia launched airstrikes and began shelling Ukraine. The death toll is already in the hundreds if not thousands and mounting. Over one million Ukrainians have already fled the fighting into neighboring European countries and millions more could become refugees.

“In this time of crisis, we echo the appeal by Pope Francis to those ‘with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war…who wants us to be brothers and not enemies.’ We join with the Holy Father in praying that ‘all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilizing coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute.’ We also join in solidarity with the Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and the Ukrainian Catholic Church in the U.S. who are all united in prayer for their people and their homeland.

“In view of the developing humanitarian crisis, I urge the U.S. government to provide all possible assistance to the people of Ukraine and to work closely with faith-based partners who are already on the ground providing emergency aid. I encourage everyone to give generously to organizations such as Catholic Relief Services and USCCB’s Collection for the Church in Central and Eastern Europe that are bringing tangible relief and the hope of Christ to those in need.

“Those suffering in Ukraine and in the surrounding region will remain close in our hearts through this conflict. During this penitential season of Lent, with Our Lady of Fatima as our guide, let us not grow weary in praying for peace, justice, and the salvation of the whole world.”


Archbishop Borys Gudziak, left, of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia and Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations, are seen at an episcopal ordination at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City March 1, 2022. Archbishop Caccia said protecting civilian populations, and humanitarian personnel in Ukraine must be a priority. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

March 4, 2022

Archbishop Borys Gudziak And Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez Invite All People Of Goodwill To Mass And Prayer For Peace In Ukraine And The Ukrainian People At The Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral Of The Immaculate Conception

The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Philadelphia will hold a vigil for peace in Ukraine at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

Most Reverend Borys Gudziak, Metropolitan for Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, will celebrate the Byzantine Rite Mass and offer a personal reflection, “The War in Ukraine in Light of the Gospel.” Most Reverend Nelson J. Pérez, Archbishop of Philadelphia, will also offer a reflection and lead the recitation of the Rosary.

Saturday, March 5, 2022
4:30 p.m.
Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy Of Philadelphia

830 North Franklin Street
Philadelphia, Pa 19123

Archbishop Gudziak and Archbishop Pérez encourage all people of goodwill to show solidarity for the people of Ukraine and Ukrainians in the United States by joining in this prayerful initiative in-person or remotely.

The evening will be streamed live from the Philadelphia Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception page beginning at 4:30 p.m. ( ). A full schedule can be found below.

  • 4:30 p.m.—Divine Liturgy in the Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic Rite celebrated in English with parts in Ukrainian
  • 6:00 p.m.—Resurrection Vespers for Sunday sung bi-lingually in English and Ukrainian
  • 7:00 p.m.—Reflection from Most Reverend Borys Gudziak, Metropolitan for Ukrainian Catholics in the United States, “The War in Ukraine in Light of the Gospel”
  • 7:30 p.m.—Opportunity for Personal Witness and Questions from Those Assembled
  • 8:15 p.m.—Reflection from Most Reverend Nelson J. Pérez, Archbishop of Philadelphia
  • 8:30 p.m.—Recitation of the Holy Rosary led by Archbishop Pérez in English
  • 9:00 p.m.—Concluding Prayer for Peace in Ukraine and Jesus’ Prayer

Confession and counseling will be available throughout the evening.

Editor’s Note: Recently, the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church launched a virtual Ukrainian Catholic Crisis Media Center to centralize all the information about the Church initiatives facing the aggression against Ukraine.

Each day, the webpage is updated with a video message from Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, who is currently in Ukraine.

For more information, please visit (

Bishop-elect Jeffrey J. Walsh takes the oath of fidelity during Solemn Vespers at Saint Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Gaylord, Mich., on March 3, 2022. (Photo Courtesy: Diocese of Gaylord)

Gaylord, Mich. – On the eve of his Episcopal Ordination and Installation as the Sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord, Bishop-elect Jeffrey J. Walsh professed his Catholic faith and swore an oath of fidelity to the pope and the Church.

Bishop-elect Walsh, along with several bishops from Michigan, participated in Solemn Vespers at Saint Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Gaylord on March 3, 2022.

During the ceremony, Bishop-elect Walsh stood before the altar, faced a crowd of family, friends and new parishioners, and publicly professed his fidelity to the Catholic Church and all of its teachings and his fidelity and loyalty to the Holy Father. The oath that is taken is canonically and morally binding on the Bishop.

The presider at the Solemn Vespers was the Most Reverend Walter A. Hurley, Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Gaylord. The Most Reverend Steven J. Raica, Bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., served as homilist. Prior to his installation in Birmingham, Bishop Raica served as the Fifth Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord.

“Today, we are honored to join together in prayer for you my dear brother, and we pray for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit on your episcopal ministry,” Bishop Raica said during his homily.

In the coming months and years, Bishop Raica told Bishop-elect Walsh that he would face times of joy, anxiousness, difficulty and joy. Through it all, he emphasized, “You are not alone. Christ is with you. He promised he would be.”

Having served the Diocese of Gaylord from 2014 to 2020, Bishop Raica also spoke of the “spectacular beauty” of Michigan’s upper-lower peninsula, calling it a “glimpse of paradise.”

Bishop Raica ended his homily by thanking Bishop-elect Walsh for saying “yes” to God’s calling.

Solemn Vespers on the eve of the Episcopal Ordination and Installation Mass for Bishop Jeffrey J. Walsh was held March 3, 2022. (Photo Courtesy: Diocese of Gaylord)

“Tonight and tomorrow and in the next months, you will meet many new friends of Christ, companions on the journey with you and you will be enriched in ways you never imagined through God’s providential grace. You will not be alone.”

Following the Concluding Prayer, Bishop-elect Walsh made brief remarks, expressing his gratitude for all those attending the Solemn Vespers.

“I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I feel with the sense of gratitude,” Bishop-elect Walsh said, referring to the many text messages, emails, phone calls and letters he has received since his appointment was announced in December 2021.

Reflecting on his Episcopal Motto, “Divine Providence,” Bishop-elect Walsh reminded those participating in the service in-person and via livestream that, “We are created to do the Father’s will.”

The bishop-elect added that he hopes the Grace of God will bless everyone who participates in his Installation and Ordination Mass.

“Everyone, I pray, will have their heart touched with the Holy Spirit, for whatever is important in your life, whatever you are struggling with or might need help with, I pray that this time together will be something that leads you closer to the mystery of God’s love and to what is the true nature of our celebration,” Bishop-elect Walsh said.

Saint Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church, located at 430 N. 7th Ave. in Scranton.

SCRANTON — For Ukrainian Catholics, the Holy Season of Lent began this past Monday under a massive dark cloud of destruction, desolation and death associated with all-out war — just a mere four days after their homeland was maliciously attacked by Russia.

Rev. Myron Myronyuk has served as pastor of Saint Vladimir Ukrainian Catholic Church in downtown Scranton for the past ten years, which happens to be as long it has been since he last visited those he left behind.

For the past week, more than ever, Father Myron’s heavy heart lies thousands of mile away as he – along with his congregation – agonize over the bitter suffering of their fellow countrymen and women. Included among those currently embattled by invading Russian forces are the priest’s 80-year-old mother, his sister, and a twin brother, who is a college professor in Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv after having served in the nation’s military for ten years.

Occasional calls to keep in touch with loved ones now occur daily.

“With the situation, I talk to my family every day and they let me know how they are managing and what is most needed,” the audibly shaken and exhausted Ukrainian churchman said, having endured days without sleep as he orchestrates incessant shipments of vital supplies for his besieged nation.

“They have nothing. They are in need of everything,” Father Myronyuk he told The Catholic Light in a late-night conversation earlier this week. He had just arrived back in his rectory after helping load 500 pounds of medical supplies to be shipped to a New Jersey agency, with the hopes of eventually reaching Ukraine through the generous support of the Polish government.

The pastor stated the civilian population has been hit especially hard, with the number of casualties reaching into the thousands and climbing each day. Most of country’s airports have also been destroyed, he indicated.

Father Myronyuk speaks for his parish and Ukrainian faithful everywhere in pleading for spiritual and material assistance.

“Monetary donations, medical and baby supplies and all types of non-perishable items are urgently need,” he noted while imploring his brothers and sisters in faith to offer fervent prayers for the Ukrainian people.

The day before the Diocese of Scranton joined the global Catholic Church in offering sacrifices of prayer and fasting on Ash Wednesday for an end to the Soviet aggression — at the behest of Pope Francis — Father Myronyuk urged, “I encourage everyone to keep praying and praying as you enter Lent.”

“We are doing are best and we let God do the rest,” the distraught priest said.

As a lifelong member of Saint Vladimir Church, Paul Ewasko remarked that since the hostile attacks began he has incredulously asked himself and his Ukrainian-born wife, Helen, “Is this really happening?”

“It all seems so unreal, yet I must fully accept it because it is real,” he said. “It is the kind of tragedy that occurred many years ago, not today.”

For Dr. Helen Chandoha Knott, a first generation Ukrainian-American, the images and news coming out her native land are reminiscent of her father and family fleeing Ukraine during World War II in the early 1940s.

“They walked for miles and took a train when they could until they came to a DP (displaced persons) camp in Germany,” she explained. “Eventually my father and his family came to America, but always stressed to us to never forget our Ukrainian culture and religious beliefs because it helps us to connect to our Ukrainian ancestors who always had to fight for basic freedoms that we in America take for granted every day.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by Jean Stasyszyn Pedley, a longtime faithful member of Saint Vladimir’s, who recalled how her mother and father had to flee Ukraine because of Communist rule many years ago.

“They would be heartbroken over these events,” she said. “But over the past few days of horror, I’ve been reminded of what is good in the world — that there are people in this community ready to help strangers.”

Pedley added, “The people of Ukraine with their deep faith in God and the Blessed Mother are inspiring all of us to do better, to be better. The outpouring of prayer and support, both financial and emotional, have been overwhelming. But as always God’s hand is guiding us.”

“The cruel and evil invasion just doesn’t fit in today’s world, or does it?” Ewasko passionately concluded. “As a Ukrainian Catholic, I look to Jesus and His Mother Mary who are real and who will see us through. Ukraine forever!”

The U.S. Capitol in Washington is seen during sunrise March 1, 2022. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The failure of the U.S. Senate Feb. 28 to advance an “extreme measure” to establish a legal right to abortion at any stage of pregnancy nationwide “is a tremendous relief,” said the chairmen of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life and religious freedom committees.

“We must respect and support mothers, their unborn children and the consciences of all Americans,” the committee chairmen said in a joint statement, noting a provision in the bill likely would not have protected the conscience rights of health care providers who object to abortion.

Passing the Women’s Health Protection Act, also known as H.R. 3755, “would have led to the loss of millions of unborn lives and left countless women to suffer from the physical and emotional trauma of abortion,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty.

In a 46-48 vote, the Senate failed to approve a procedure known as cloture — which limits debate and ends a filibuster in order to move to a vote on a bill. Sixty votes were needed for cloture.

In addition to codifying Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide, the bill would have eliminated pro-life laws at every level of government — including parental notification for minor girls, informed consent, and health or safety protections specific to abortion facilities.

“H.R. 3755 also would have compelled all Americans to support abortions here and abroad with their tax dollars,” a USCCB news release said. “(It) would have also likely forced health care providers and professionals to perform, assist in, and/or refer for abortion against their deeply held beliefs, as well as forced employers and insurers to cover or pay for abortion.”

“Rather than providing comprehensive material and social support for a challenging pregnancy, H.R. 3755 fails women and young girls in need by instead offering a free abortion as the ‘solution’ to their difficulty,” Archbishop Lori and Cardinal Dolan said in their statement.

“Women deserve better than this. We implore Congress to promote policies that recognize the value and human dignity of both mother and child,” they said.

The U.S. House passed H.R. 3755 in a 218-211 vote Sept. 24.

Supporters of the bill want to codify Roe in the likelihood the U.S. Supreme Court will overturn the nearly 50-year-old decision when it hands down its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case involving Mississippi’s ban on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The decision is expected in June or July.

If Roe is overturned, the court decision will leave abortion laws to the states.

After the House vote, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., called on the Senate to Pass the Women’s Health Protection Act., saying that the Mississippi case “is a product of Republican attacks on reproductive rights spanning decades.”

If Roe is overturned, the court will be “depriving individuals across the country of their right to choose to have an abortion,” said DeLauro, a Catholic.

In a Feb. 23 letter to every U.S. senator, Archbishop Lori and Cardinal Dolan urged them to vote against this “radical bill” to legislatively enshrine “the killing of defenseless, voiceless human beings.”

“As Pope Francis stated regarding unborn children, ‘Their killing in huge numbers, with the endorsement of states, is a serious problem that undermines the foundations of the construction of justice, compromising the proper solution of any other human and social issue,'” they wrote.

“This bill insists that elective abortion, including late-term elective abortion, is a ‘human right’ and ‘women’s health care’ — something that should be promoted, funded and celebrated” when it fact, they continued, “abortion is the opposite of women’s health care, and is an extreme violation of human rights. It has no clear justification in terms of women’s health.”

Archbishop Lori and Cardinal Dolan emphasized that the Catholic Church, “through its numerous institutions and programs,” consistently affirms and supports every human life “regardless of its condition or stage of development.”

“This is why the church supports a robust social safety net for persons who are poor or otherwise experiencing hardship, supports the dignity and rights of migrants, and opposes the death penalty,” they said.

“And this is the reason why the church supports, helps staff and fund pregnancy-help centers and ministries,”” the prelates added.

This also is why, they said, the U.S. bishops launched “Walking with Moms in Need,” a nationwide initiative “to engage every Catholic parish in providing a safety net to ensure that pregnant and parenting moms have the resources, love and support they need to nurture the lives of their children.”

Ukrainian Father Marek Viktor Gongalo, a Franciscan friar, serves as the Polish translator during Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican March 2, 2022. The pope addressed Polish pilgrims and praised their country’s welcoming of refugees fleeing Ukraine. He also asked for prayers for the parents of Father Gongalo. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis praised Poland’s welcoming of refugees escaping the violence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“You were the first to support Ukraine, opening your borders, your hearts and the doors of your homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war,” the pope told Polish pilgrims during his general audience March 2.


“You are generously offering them everything they need to live in dignity, despite the current tragic situation. I am deeply grateful to you, and I bless you!” he said.

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope noted that the Polish translator at the audience, Franciscan Father Marek Viktor Gongalo, is from Ukraine and that “his parents are at this moment in an underground refuge to protect themselves from the bombs in a place near Kyiv.”

“Accompanying him,” the pope said, “we accompany all the people who are suffering from the bombings, his elderly parents and so many other elderly people who are underground to protect themselves.”

“Let us carry in our hearts the memory of this people,” the pope said as those present at the audience applauded.

According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, as of March 1, 453,982 Ukrainians have entered Poland.

Among the charitable organizations helping to welcome refugees is Caritas Poland, which continues to aid refugees entering the country.

Polish Father Pawel Konieczny, deputy director of Caritas in the Archdiocese of Przemysl, said in a statement published March 1 that Caritas has mobilized volunteers at the border, providing food, shelter and legal assistance.

Caritas has also placed volunteers at the train station in Przemysl to assist Ukrainians fleeing violence in their homeland.

“These people are protected, they also receive a warm meal, dry provisions, hygienic and cosmetic products,” Father Konieczny said. “We also organize support for mothers: including care for their children and various activities so that the women can rest for a while.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sprinkles ashes on the head of a cardinal during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome March 2, 2022. Cardinal Parolin presided in place of Pope Francis, who was not able to attend because of knee pain. (CNS photo/Paolo Galosi, pool)
ROME (CNS) – Prayer, charity and fasting have a medicinal power to purify oneself, help others and change history, Pope Francis wrote in a homily read by Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Prayer, charity and fasting “are weapons of the spirit and, with them, on this day of prayer and fasting for Ukraine, we implore from God that peace which men and women are incapable of building by themselves,” the pope wrote.
Italian Cardinal Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, presided over the March 2 Ash Wednesday Mass instead of Pope Francis, who had been prescribed rest for severe knee pain by his doctors. The 85-year-old pope had led the weekly general audience earlier in the day.
Before the Mass, Cardinal Parolin, other cardinals, bishops, religious and lay faithful walked from the Benedictine monastery of St. Anselm to the Dominican-run Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome’s Aventine Hill. At the basilica, Cardinal Parolin received ashes on the top of his head from Cardinal Jozef Tomko, titular cardinal of the basilica, and distributed ashes to a number of cardinals, Benedictines, Dominicans and others attending the Mass.


The rite of receiving ashes helps people reflect on “the transience of our human condition,” the pope wrote in his homily. It is like a medicine that has a bitter taste and yet is effective for curing the illness of appearances, a spiritual illness that enslaves us and makes us dependent on the admiration of others.”

“Those who seek worldly rewards never find peace or contribute to peace. They lose sight of the Father and their brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Let us make a diagnosis of the appearances that we seek, and let us try to unmask them. It will do us good.”

Lent is also a journey of healing, he wrote, that requires living each day with “a renewed spirit, a different ‘style'” that is aided by prayer, charity and fasting, he wrote.

“Purified by the Lenten ashes, purified of the hypocrisy of appearances,” prayer, charity and fasting “become even more powerful and restore us to a living relationship with God, our brothers and sisters, and ourselves,” he wrote.

“Lenten charity, purified by these ashes, brings us back to what is essential, to the deep joy to be found in giving,” without pride and ostentation, but hidden and “far from the spotlights,” wrote the pope.

And, he wrote, fasting is not a diet for the body, but a way to keep the spirit healthy, freeing people from being self-centered.

Fasting should also not be restricted to food alone, he wrote. “Especially during Lent, we should fast from anything that can create in us any kind of addiction,” so that fasting will have an actual impact on one’s life.

“Prayer, charity and fasting are not medicines meant only for ourselves but for everyone: Because they can change history,” because those who experience their effects “almost unconsciously pass them on to others” and because these are “the principal ways for God to intervene in our lives and in the world,” he wrote.

In his written homily, the pope asked people to stop being in a rush and to find the time to stand in silence before God.

“Let us rediscover the fruitfulness and simplicity of a heartfelt dialogue with the Lord. For God is not interested in appearances. Instead, he loves to be found in secret, ‘the secrecy of love,’ far from all ostentation and clamor.”

Religious leaders gather at St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, March 2, 2022, to pray for peace, despite the city being shelled with Russian rockets. (CNS photo/

KYIV, Ukraine (CNS) – Religious leaders gathered in St. Sophia Cathedral to pray as the city was being shelled with Russian rockets.

They prayed to God to protect Ukraine from the Russian occupiers, stop the bloodshed caused by the war and protect Ukrainian cities, reported Religious Information Service of Ukraine. They also prayed for the men and women defending their country.

The All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations organized the prayer event, “Address to the Almighty for the Protection and Preservation of Ukraine,” March 2 to coincide with a global day of prayer for peace called by Pope Francis. Catholic, Orthodox, Armenian, Protestant and Muslim leaders participated.

The religious leaders also prayed for their president, a strengthening of Ukraine’s military and civilian volunteers and for a complete victory in defending Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“Through the power of our common prayer, the Almighty Lord will protect the Ukrainian people from the war, will stop the Russian aggressor and administer his fair justice over the evil that he commits,” they said, adding that they were confident that, with God’s help, the Ukrainian people would cope with the current challenge, protect their statehood, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We pray especially for the defenders of Ukraine — men and women, as well as everyone who, through conscientious work, volunteer initiative and responsible citizenship, strengthens the defense capability of our state. Let us unite and preserve our faith, peace in our hearts, and confidence that the Almighty is on the side of those who are being wronged, and therefore these trials only strengthen us for victory,” they prayed.

On March 2, leaders around the world responded to Pope Francis’ call to unite in prayer for peace in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Catholic Church planned to broadcast a seven-hour prayer telethon to coincide with the seventh day of the war. The vigil was to include prayers and traditional Eastern Christian hymns and end with the rosary led by Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kyiv-Halych, major archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.