The spiritual leader of the world’s Eastern Orthodox Christians and the president of Poland’s Catholic bishops’ conference prayed together on Tuesday for peace in Ukraine.
Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, prayed alongside Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki in the Polish capital Warsaw on March 29.
The common prayer came on the second day of Patriarch Bartholomew’s three-day visit to Poland, which has received more than 2.3 million people fleeing the war in Ukraine as of March 28.
Bartholomew I is visiting the country at the invitation of Poland’s President Andrzej Duda to offer his blessing to Ukrainian refugees, who are predominantly Orthodox Christians.
A private meeting between Gądecki and Bartholomew I took place at the House of the Archbishops of Warsaw, where they were welcomed by Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz of Warsaw.
The Ecumenical Patriarch met with Ukrainian refugees staying at a retreat house on the campus of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.
In an address after the encounter, the Orthodox leader said: “What I realized very intensely during my visit here is that sometimes there is only room for tears. Sometimes the only appropriate response is silence. Sometimes we can only share the power of touch, of consolation, of sitting beside someone.”
“We have already congratulated you on the generosity and hospitality of everyone in Poland — as well as in other countries neighboring Ukraine. You have literally given your homes and your hearts to your fellow human beings. And the entire world owes you a profound debt of gratitude.”
In his speech, Gądecki said: “We are honored by the presence of Your Holiness in Warsaw, at this difficult time marked by the war in Ukraine. Thank you for your Christian solidarity in our common supplication for a just peace for Ukraine and the entire world.”
“On Feb. 24 of this year, the world was shocked by the horrifying news that the Russian Federation had launched a war against Ukraine. Since then, thousands of innocent people have been killed, including hundreds of children, elderly people, women, and men who had nothing to do with the hostilities. Many of the aggressor’s actions bear the hallmarks of genocide.”
“Some towns and villages were razed to the ground; hospitals and schools have been bombed. And all this is happening at the beginning of the 21st century, 100 years after the establishment of the godless Soviet Empire and 77 since the end of World War II.”
The Polish archbishop noted that Ukraine and Russia were at war despite both tracing their Christian roots back to the baptism of Vladimir I, the grand prince of Kyiv, in 988.
“Ironically, in this war, two Christian Slavic nations are fighting each other, and yet they have the same baptismal font: the baptism of St. Vladimir the Great, Prince of Kyiv, who, in 988, received it from Constantinople, the capital of the Christian East,” he said.
Gądecki recalled a March 2 letter that he wrote to the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, in which he asked rhetorically whether it was “permissible to destroy the cradle of Christianity on Slavic soil, the place where Rus was baptized.”
The Russian Orthodox Church severed ties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2018 after Patriarch Bartholomew confirmed that he intended to recognize the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.
After the speeches, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the archbishop of Poznań, western Poland, went to the chapel to pray for peace.
After a reading from St. John’s Gospel, those present prayed for religious leaders to become living examples of peacemaking, for the followers of other religions, and especially for those in power in Russia and Ukraine.
They also prayed for eternal salvation for people who have died in the war and that God would show “great mercy to those dead who took part in this war with evil intentions.”
The meeting between the archbishop and the patriarch took place the day after Gądecki had an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, at which he discussed Poland’s support for Ukrainian refugees.
Bartholomew I shares a close bond with Pope Francis, who has sought to strengthen Catholic-Orthodox relations since his election in 2013.
The patriarch met with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda on Monday, the first day of his visit to Poland. Duda is expected to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday.
In a March 28 statement, Bartholomew I said: “Let me assure You that the entire world has watched as Poland — and other surrounding nations within this blessed continent — has literally opened the borders of its land and the depths of its heart to receive and comfort women and children, elderly and unaccompanied minors, and even pets.”
“You did not just consign your refugee neighbors to tents and camps; you embraced them in your places of residence and your living rooms.”