Pope Francis: Ash Wednesday a Day of Prayer for Ukraine

‘My Heart Aches Greatly at the Worsening Situation in Ukraine’

Day of Prayer for Ukraine
© Vatican Media

Pope Francis announced today that Ash Wednesday will be a Day of Prayer for Ukraine.

His appeal for prayer came during his General Audience in Paul VI Hall. Ash Wednesday this year falls on March 2.

“My heart aches greatly at the worsening situation in Ukraine,” the Holy Father said. “Despite the diplomatic efforts of the last few weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up.

“Like me, many people all over the world are feeling anguish and concern. Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests. I would like to appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war; who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies. I pray that all the parties involved refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilizing coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute.

“And now I would like to appeal to everyone, believers and non-believers alike. Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God’s weapons, with prayer and fasting. I invite everyone to make next 2 March, Ash Wednesday, a Day of Fasting for Peace. I encourage believers in a special way to dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting on that day. May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”

The Pope’s announcement today is the latest in a series of appeals he has issued asking for world powers to find a peaceful solution to the Ukraine crisis.

As the threat of war looms in Eastern Europe, the United States sought to put pressure on Russia on Wednesday by stepping up sanctions.

The U.S., the European Union, Britain, Australia, Canada, and Japan planned to target banks and elites while Germany froze a major gas pipeline project from Russia.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Britain would stop Russia from selling sovereign debt in London.

The moves come after Russia deployed troops in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the enclaves in the Donbas region which border Russia, raising increasing fears in the West of a major war.