ROME (CNS) – Pope Francis’ envoy for peace in Ukraine asked his fellow bishops and all Catholics in Italy to continue their prayers for peace in Ukraine and in the Holy Land, but also to make those prayers concrete through acts of solidarity.

For example, Italian dioceses should expand summer camp programs to welcome Ukrainian children “who are orphans or victims — and they all are — of the catastrophe that is war,” said Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of Bologna, president of the Italian bishops’ conference and the pope’s envoy for Ukraine.

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, speaks to journalists as he arrives at the Basilica of St. Sebastian to pray along with other participants in the assembly of the Synod of Bishops as part of their pilgrimage to Rome’s ancient catacombs Oct. 12, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

Addressing the conference’s permanent council March 18, the cardinal also encouraged the bishops to promote the full participation of their dioceses in the annual Good Friday collection for Christians in the Holy Land.

And, he said, the late May plenary assembly of the Italian bishops’ conference will include a day of prayer, fasting and solidarity for peace in the world.

“Can we still accept that war is the only solution to conflicts?” Cardinal Zuppi asked his fellow bishops.

“In this time of conflicts, divisions, nationalist sentiment, hatred and opposition,” he said, the Catholic Church’s work for unity “shines as a light of hope.”

The commitment of each bishop and every Catholic community, the cardinal said, must be to be “artisans of peace, weavers of unity in every context, peaceful in words and behavior.”

Cardinal Zuppi said he knows many people view Pope Francis as naïve in his constant pleas to stop sending weapons to war-torn regions and in urging negotiations even when, like in Ukraine, the identity of the aggressor is clear.

“The Holy Father’s words on peace are anything but naïveté,” the cardinal said. Rather, the pope is trying to share “a pain that we will never be able to measure.”

“We are living through a very long Good Friday when darkness covered the whole earth, and darkness erases life and all light, and sometimes, it seems, even hope and consciences themselves,” he said. “The church is always Mary at the foot of the cross of her children; she cannot get used to the darkness and believes in light even when there is only darkness.”

“The church is a mother and experiences war as a mother for whom the value of life is superior to reasoning or alliances,” Cardinal Zuppi said.