12 April 2022, The Tablet

Bishops pray for peace as Holy Week begins

The Catholic and Anglican archbishops of Armagh appealed for dialogue and “genuine human fraternity” in a joint statement.

Bishops pray for peace as Holy Week begins

Church leaders including Cardinal Nichols joined yesterday in an hour of pray in solidarity for Ukraine.

The Catholic and Anglican archbishops of Armagh called for the world to embrace “this message of an Easter peace which does not deny the reality of suffering and death” in a joint statement at the start of Holy Week.

Archbishop Eamon Martin joined his Anglican counterpart, Archbishop John McDowell, in an appeal for dialogue and “genuine human fraternity” in the face of violence.

They described how Christ’s appearance to his disciples after the Resurrection “also showed his friends the wounds of violence in his hands and his sides”.

“He therefore identifies himself to them as both the crucified, and the Risen Saviour, one acquainted with suffering: his peace is offered through the blood of the cross.”

The archbishops, who on St Patrick’s Day issued a joint appeal for peace in Ukraine and lessons from Ireland’s peace process, also prayed for peace in Tigray, Syria, and South Sudan, where “the cross of Good Friday continues to cast its shadow”.

In addition, on Monday, senior church leaders representing various Christian denominations came together today in an ecumenical hour of prayer for Ukraine, at the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in London. The service followed an event last month where senior faith leaders met with Faith Minister Kemi Badenoch at the cathedral in solidarity and support for Ukrainian people.

The service reflected a breadth of different spiritualities, traditions and ways of prayer, beginning with the chanting of the Sixth Hour Office of the Ukrainian Church by the Cathedral clergy led by Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family of London. 

He said afterwards: “It was a very moving experience to be united in prayer with so many leaders of the Churches and Christian Faith communities of London at Holy Family in Exile Cathedral for peace in Ukraine. We cannot underestimate the power of prayer as our Lord Jesus Christ told us that ‘Where ever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with you.’”

On Palm Sunday, Archbishop Martin of Armagh also preached at the annual Mass for the Disappeared, which he said “reminds us of the lifelong pain and impact of unfair trials, secret condemnation, summary executions, and concealed truth”.

He compared the shocking scenes of war in Ukraine and of the Troubles, “of defenceless people being murdered with their hands tied behind their backs, their bodies left unidentified in mass graves”, with the injustice of Jesus’s trial described in Luke’s Gospel.

In England, the Archbishop of Westminster placed the agony of the Ukrainian people in Christ’s care at the Mass for Palm Sunday.

In his homily at Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Vincent Nichols described the journey of Holy Week from “a moment of triumph” at Christ’s entry to Jerusalem to “the garden of his agony”. “Where we go, he goes too.  Where he goes, so do we.”

He encouraged Catholics to dwell on the Passion not only during the liturgy “but in our hearts, in every quiet moment of the week as we raise our minds and hearts to him”.

“In this way we make these days a truly Holy Week.”

The Archbishop of Glasgow, William Nolan, issued a message for the beginning of Holy Week, praying for the people of Ukraine, Syria, and Yemen.

He described the war as “a reminder of why Christ came: that humanity needs to be redeemed, that left to ourselves, our selfishness and our self-interest cause friction and fall-outs, cause violence and war”.

“May those who suffer cruelty from their fellow human beings take strength from knowing that in their suffering the suffering Christ is close to them.”

In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis said “save yourself” was “the constant refrain of those who crucified the Lord”.

“The mantra ‘save yourself’ collides with the words of the Saviour who offers his self,” he told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square.

He emphasised God’s untiring desire to forgive, despite rejection and scorn, and contrasted this with the world’s mindset: “I will love you if you love me; I will be your friend if you are my friend; I will help you if you help me.”

The Pope said that violence comes from ignorance of God, and repeats the cruelty of the crucifixion.

“Christ is once more nailed to the Cross in mothers who mourn the unjust death of husbands and sons. He is crucified in refugees who flee from bombs with children in their arms.

“He is crucified in the elderly left alone to die; in the young people deprived of a future; in soldiers sent to kill their brothers and sisters. Christ is being crucified here, today.”

However, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, Andriy Yurash, said he doubted the Pope’s appeals for an Easter truce would be heeded by Moscow in the run-up to Russia’s traditional 9 May Victory Day.

“Russia wishes only to achieve its ends – and Putin must claim at least some small victory by then,” Yurash told the Rome-based ADN-Kronos news agency on Monday. Meanwhile Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Papal Almoner, was set to return for the third time to Ukraine and deliver another ambulance on Pope Francis’ behalf on Holy Thursday. 

A papal visit to Lebanon was announced on 5 April by the office of Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who met Pope Francis at the Vatican on 22 March.

His office said: “The Lebanese have been waiting for this visit for some time to express their gratitude for His Holiness’s attention to Lebanon.” Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Béchara Boutros Raï said last Sunday that the visit scheduled for June “is part of the commitment of the Holy See to help Lebanon emerge from its deep crisis and keep it within the system of democratic nations.” The Vatican is yet to confirm the visit. Lebanese general elections take place on 15 May. “The possibility is being studied,” said the Holy See Press Office.

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