Irish Catholic bishops have appealed to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church to support a ceasefire in Ukraine.
A statement after their spring general meeting at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, said that the bishops urged all Christians to strive daily for peace, including Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.
“Bishops made an appeal to all Christians, including Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church, to join in daily spiritual and practical efforts in support of a ceasefire, humanitarian outreach and the immediate laying down of weapons,” the March 9 statement said.
Other Catholic leaders have appealed to Patriarch Kirill, who is thought to be close to the Russian President Vladimir Putin, to take a clear stand against the war, including Poland’s Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki and Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx.
The Irish bishops called on parishes to provide accommodation for Ukrainian refugees.
“At this time of trial, we want to stand in prayerful and practical solidarity with the Ukrainian community here in Ireland and also to acknowledge the many Russians in our midst who bear no responsibility for this tragic situation,” they said.
“What we are witnessing during these days impels us again to appeal for diplomacy and dialogue — to work for a genuine human fraternity — as the only way to resolve differences and conflicts.”
“As tens of thousands of refugees arrive in Ireland in the near future, there is no doubt that the Gospel is calling on us to open our hearts and our homes.”
The Irish bishops’ conference includes bishops who are resident in the Republic of Ireland, a European Union member state, and in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
The bishops applauded the decision to waive visa requirements for Ukrainians seeking to enter Ireland and other EU countries. But they urged the U.K. government “to prioritize the rights and dignity of all Ukrainians who seek refuge in Northern Ireland.”
They said: “In order to help Ukrainians recover from the trauma and violent displacement that they have experienced, we encourage everyone to welcome refugees in a sensitive and compassionate manner.”
“We ask all parish communities to give serious consideration to ways in which refugees can be accommodated and integrated while with us.
The Russian embassy in the Irish capital Dublin has become a flashpoint for protests against the war.
The Catholic priest Father Fergal MacDonagh poured a can of red paint, symbolizing the blood of war victims, on the gates of the embassy on March 4.
After an ecclesiastical supplies company truck reversed into the gates on March 7, Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Ireland’s ambassador to Moscow in protest.
The Irish bishops announced that a special collection for Ukraine would be taken at all Masses on the weekend of March 26-27.
The bishops said: “This invasion and aggression reminds us of the fragility of peace, even in Europe, a place that has experienced peace for much of the past seven decades.”
“It is we as the people of Europe, together with the wider world, who must shape history at this crucial moment in time. The inspiration that informed the foundation of the various European institutions and organizations after World War II was peace and the development of economic, social and cultural ties.”
“There is a crying need for the renewal of the ‘soul of Europe’ which must be based on the spiritual sources and roots which inspired those post-war developments.”
The bishops acknowledged an outpouring of prayer for Ukraine since the launch of the full-scale Russian invasion on Feb. 24.
They invited parishes to reach out to Ukrainians in Ireland and elsewhere on the national feast of St. Patrick on March 17.
“At the ‘sign of peace’ at Mass on that day, and for the remainder of Lent, bishops ask priests to call for peace in the world and especially in Ukraine and, after a moment of silence, to invite everyone to offer a gesture or greeting of peace (without the handshake), holding in prayer all who are caught up in this conflict,” they said.
The bishops concluded their statement with a prayer for the people of Ukraine:
We pray for the people of Ukraine,
For all those suffering or afraid,
that you will be close to them and protect them.
We pray for world leaders,
for compassion, strength and wisdom to guide their choices.
We pray for the world; that in this moment of crisis,
we may reach out in solidarity
to our brothers and sisters in need.
May we walk in your ways
so that peace and justice
become a reality for the people of Ukraine
and for all the world.
Our Lady, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
Our Lady of Kyiv, pray for us!