Insisting that there is “a need for more prayer, for conversion, and an end to the conflict” in Ukraine, and in a response to a request from Ukrainian Bishops, Pope Francis “expressed his desire that during the month of October, especially in [Marian] Shrines, the Rosary be dedicated to peace and reconciliation in Ukraine.”
The appeal to dedicate October to prayers for peace in Ukraine came during a meeting with the Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who are holding their annual Synod in Rome.
Suffering of the Ukrainian people
At the beginning of the nearly two-hour encounter, the Pope was greeted by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, “who recalled the painful situation in which his country finds itself, with an increasing number of dead, wounded and tortured people, and who thanked the Pope for the affection shown in so many ways and on so many occasions.”
A statement from the Holy See Press Office noted that, following the greeting from Major Archbishop Shevchuk, several of the assembled bishops shared with the Pope their stories of “the suffering that the Ukrainian people are experiencing in different places and in different ways.”
Pope Francis expresses closeness
The Press Office noted that the Holy Father “listened attentively” to their testimony, and “with some brief interventions, expressed his feelings of closeness and participation in the tragedy that the Ukrainians are experiencing, with a ‘dimension of martyrdom’ that is not spoken about enough, subjected to cruelty and criminality.”
He also spoke about “his sorrow for the sense of helplessness experienced in the face of war,” which he ascribed to “the devil, who desires to destroy.”
Pope Francis turned his thoughts especially to the Ukrainian children he has met. “They look at you and have forgotten their smile,” he lamented. “This is one of the fruits of war: taking children’s smiles away from them.”
Following the way of Jesus
Finally, the statement noted, Pope Francis “recalled the example of Jesus during the Passion, who did not remain a victim of insults, torture, and crucifixion, but bore witness to the courage to speak the truth, to be close to the people so that they would not be discouraged.”
“This is not easy,” the Pope said. However, he continued, “This is holiness, and the people want us to be saints and teachers of this way that Jesus taught us.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Pope Francis confided to the Bishops “that he remembers the Ukrainians every day in his prayer before the icon of the Virgin,” which the Major Archbishop had given the Pope before he left Buenos Aires.