By Katie Yoder
As Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the United States, about 1,000 faith leaders, including some Catholics, are calling for a Christmas truce in his country.
Led by The Fellowship of Reconciliation-USA, the National Council of Elders, CODEPINK, and the Peace in Ukraine Coalition, the petition asks the Biden administration to push for a “negotiated settlement” to bring the war to an end.
The leaders, uniting across diverse faith backgrounds, state that the solution to the war waged by Russia is not a military one.
Together, they signed a statement reading: “As people of faith and conscience, believing in the sanctity of all life on this planet, we call for a Christmas Truce in Ukraine. In the spirit of the truce that occurred in 1914 during the First World War, we urge our government to take a leadership role in bringing the war in Ukraine to an end through supporting calls for a cease-fire and negotiated settlement, before the conflict results in a nuclear war that could devastate the world’s ecosystems and annihilate all of God’s creation.”
One of the initial signatories, Marie Dennis, serves as senior adviser of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative Program at Pax Christi International, a group that works to promote peace, respect for human rights, and justice and reconciliation throughout the world.
“I signed the petition for a Christmas truce in Ukraine because I believe that the loss of life, the tremendous suffering in Ukraine and elsewhere, the ecological damage, the generational trauma caused by the Russian invasion and ongoing war, and the threatened use of a nuclear weapon are breaking the heart of a loving God,” Dennis told CNA.
“Pope Francis has repeatedly called for an end to the brutality, an end to the killing, a nonviolent resolution to this catastrophic war,” she added. “Perhaps a cease-fire will create space for negotiations that are the only route toward a just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”
In an interview published in November, Pope Francis said that the Holy See is “willing to do everything possible to mediate and put an end to the conflict” in Ukraine. The 86-year-old pontiff has been an outspoken advocate for peace in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of that country began.
“But everyone must commit to demilitarizing hearts, starting with their own, and then defusing, disarming violence. We must all be pacifists. Wanting peace, not just a truce that may only serve to rearm. Real peace, which is the fruit of dialogue,” the pope told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Most recently, on Wednesday, he spoke about Ukraine during his weekly catechetical series on discernment.
“Let us think of the Ukrainian people this Christmas, without electricity, without heating, without the main things necessary to survive, and let us pray to the Lord to bring them peace as soon as possible,” the pope said.
At the White House on Wednesday, Zelenskyy spoke during a joint press conference with U.S. President Joe Biden on the 300th day since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Russia needs to be held accountable for everything it does against us, against our people, against Europe, and the whole free world,” the president of Ukraine said. “And it is very important that we have the peace formula. And for that, we offer very specific steps [for] what America can do to help us to implement them. We propose [a] global formula for peace summit.”
Biden, a Catholic, recognized that they spoke on the fourth night of Hanukkah, or “a time when Jewish people around the world — President Zelenskyy and many of their families among them — honor the timeless miracle, the small band of warriors fighting for their values and their freedom against a much larger foe and how they endured and how they overcame.”
“How the flame of faith, with only enough oil for one day, burned brightly for eight days,” he added. “The story of survival and resilience that reminds us that the coldest days of the year, that light will always prevail over darkness and hope drives away despair.”