Ukraine: Solidarity of Bishops Meeting in Florence

Cardinal Giuseppe Betori Warns Against the Instrumentalization of Religion


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is at the center of the preoccupations of chancelleries worldwide. Inevitably, it was also discussed at the “Mediterranean Frontier of Peace” meeting, which has gathered Bishops and Mayors in Florence.  In a note, the Bishops expressed their “preoccupation and grief over the tragic scene in Ukraine, and they renewed their closeness to the country’s Christian communities.

Welcoming Pope Francis’ invitation to live on March 2 a day of fasting and prayer for peace, the Bishops appealed to the conscience of all those with political responsibility to silence the arms. Every conflict brings with it death and destruction, causes suffering to the populations and threatens coexistence among nations. The madness of war must stop! The Bishops of the Mediterranean know this scourge well, hence they ask for peace with one voice.”

Cardinal Betori Alerts Against the Instrumentalization of Religion

 This subject was also addressed during the briefing with the press. Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence, celebrated Mass this morning for the specific intention of peace. “In as much as believers, the first action is prayer for peace,” he said. “It is a gift that men receive from God, we are not capable of making peace but war. If we are receptive, we can receive the gift of peace,” he added.

 “In the second place, it’s necessary to avoid in every way that religion fuel the reasons for the war. This is only possible if religion doesn’t become fundamentalism or an instrument of populism of nationalism. Clearly confirmed is that religion cannot serve war; every pretension to have religion bow to political power is rejected,” he said.


 In the same line, Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg and President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community reiterated, in the name of the COMECE, “our friendship to the people of Ukraine. Our God is God of peace, not of war, Father of all, not only of certain nations. I appeal so that today’s special meeting of the European Council may take all the opportune measures to promote de-escalation and that everything possible be done to reach peace.

Solidarity with Ukrainians

 Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa of Jerusalem noted that at the opening of the works yesterday, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, President of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), read a letter from Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Schevchuk of Kiev, justifying, for obvious reasons, his absence in Florence and inviting all to pray. Today Cardinal Bassetti read the response of “solidarity for all that has happened. The subject of citizenship (at the center of the meeting) is indicative: religion cannot be instrumental to political visions, a problem that also exists in the Middle East. The relationship between religion, identity, nations, and citizenship is a topical subject and lived, unfortunately, not in a positive way in the conflict in Ukraine. It’s necessary to dialogue between Churches to build relations that are not functional to a political vision but that, on the contrary, help politics to have a broad and open vision. “

Sant’Egidio’s Vigil

 Finally, to be noted is that this evening Sant’Egidio Community will hold a Prayer Vigil for peace in Ukraine at 8:00 pm in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in streaming connection with all the countries in the world in which it is present. “It is our first, spontaneous response to the tragedy that is being consummated in these hours in Ukraine,” explained the Community. “We cannot be resigned to war as the last word, but it’s necessary to ask incessantly for peace. It’s what we implore for the good of Ukraine and of the whole world, addressing ourselves to all, beginning with those that are responsible for nations. We invite all to join us to halt the madness of recourse to arms.”

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester