Fr. Stephen Van Lal Than

Ukrainian refugees in Przemysl, Poland, wait to board a bus to take them to a temporary shelter March 23, 2022, after fleeing the Russian invasion. (CNS photo/Hannah McKay, Reuters)

Let us continue to pray and sacrifice for peace in our world

My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

In anticipation of Ash Wednesday this year, Pope Francis called upon Catholics of the world to observe the traditional prayer, fasting and charity of this day for a special intention. Only days before, Russia had invaded Ukraine and even in those first days the human toll being reported was horrific. War and violence of this scale had not been seen on the continent of Europe since the end of World War II.

As a student of history, Pope Francis understood the peril of such military violence on the peace of the world. Certainly, the world too regularly sees war and violence exacting an inhumane toll but the danger of the world’s superpowers engaging in armed conflict was real – and remains so.

European and American leaders responded to the eruption of war with the imposition of military and economic sanctions. While these responses are superior to armed conflict, they are not without grave consequences. The economies of all the world’s nations are suffering with inflation and most particularly higher fuel costs. While there are signs that the sanctions are exacting a price on Russia, again the price is paid mostly by ordinary people just scraping by to provide for their families. The architects of war are generally shielded from its most horrific effects.

On March 25, Pope Francis invited bishops and pastors around the world to join him in an act of consecrating the nations and people of Ukraine and Russia. This is a tradition dating back more than one hundred years from the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to three shepherd children at Fatima in Portugal as World War I raged throughout all of Europe.

I was in Chicago on that date and participated in the unity with the Holy Father at Holy Name Cathedral there. Cardinal Blase Cupich presided at Mass and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the pope’s Nuncio to the United States, led the assembly in the prayer of consecration.

Fr. John Thomas, rector of St. Stephen Cathedral, represented me in leading the consecration to a full house at our cathedral.

With every public pronouncement, Pope Francis deplores the ongoing war and violence and reminds the world to pray for peace. The Holy Father has no military or economic sanctions to impose that might bend the will of those who further war. But he continues to remind the world that true peace will be the fruit of prayer and sacrifice.

We in the United States are insulated from the violent terrors of the war in Europe – and so many other places in the world – apart from when we encounter higher prices for commodities.

Let us join ourselves to the Prayer of St. Francis pledging to be instruments of peace. Pope Francis has shown us the way to offer our prayers and sacrifices to peace in the world and in human hearts.

The month of May is observed in our Catholic tradition as a month of special devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.

Sincerely in Christ,

Most Reverend William F. Medley
Diocese of Owensboro


Originally printed in the May 2022 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.

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