Pope Francis  (Vatican Media)

By Tiziana Campisi and Felipe Herrera

March 2 2022

Ahead of Ash Wednesday, 2 March, Cardinals Kurt Koch and Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot renewed Pope Francis’ invitation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Ukraine: “We appeal to consciences with the arms of God to ask for an end to the war and be in solidarity with those who are suffering.”

As concerns about the war in Ukraine grow around the world, Cardinals Kurt Koch and Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot – presidents respectively of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue – joined the appeal for peace launched by the Pope last week.

“Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God’s weapons, with prayer and fasting,” Pope Francis said at the end of the general audience on 23 February, asking that Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, be a day dedicated to Ukraine, encouraging believers in a special way to pray intensely.

The two dicastery heads emphasized the importance of the Pope’s invitation and urge all Catholics, as well as people of other faiths, to be united in prayer for peace.

Cardinal Koch: Public prayer, an appeal to conscience

“For us Catholics, Ash Wednesday is already a day of prayer and fasting,” said Cardinal Kurt Koch, while pointing out that the Pope has invited everyone – Christians of other churches and all people – to join in this prayer for peace. It is a way of being in solidarity and united, especially because, the cardinal observes, when there is a war people have the often feel powerless and wonder what they can do.

At this time, it is very important to entrust ourselves to God, explained the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, because God desires peace, and never war. A public prayer then, Cardinal Koch adds, is an “appeal to the conscience of all those who have power over war and peace,” an invitation to purify their consciences, so that they do not have thoughts of war, but of peace.

“Thirdly, the prayer for peace is a sign of solidarity with all those who are suffering, who are in a very tragic situation, who have to leave their families, their homes,” concluded the cardinal. “Prayer is a sign for these people, because it helps them understand that they are not alone, that there are those who are thinking of them and praying for them.”

Ayuso: religions together to pray

Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, for his part, expressed his gratitude to the Pope for asking everyone to pray as members of the human family. The cardinal urged the faithful of different religious traditions to join the Pope’s initiative, emphasizing the importance attached to fasting and prayer by the various religious traditions. As president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, he invited the leaders of different communities and religious traditions to join the Day for Ukraine. Cardinal Ayuso Guixot said he hopes that the prayers and fasting of all will contribute to world peace. -Vatican News