03 October 2022, The Tablet

War will not solve problems, say Russia's Catholic bishops

The Russian bishops' statement quoted Pius XII’s appeal: “Nothing is lost with peace, everything is lost with war.”

War will not solve problems, say Russia's Catholic bishops

The head of the Catholic Church in Russia, the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Mother of God in Moscow, Paolo Pezzi (right) attending a service for Orthodox Easter this year with the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Giovanni D'Agnello (centre), at Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
Sipa US/Alamy

Russia’s Catholic bishops issued a statement last week detailing the Church's teaching on war, following the partial mobilisation of the Russian Federation on 21 September.

Agenzia Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies, reported that the Catholic bishops’ conference published the message on Wednesday 28 September, expressing their “wish to follow the teaching of the Church, according to the Gospel and the tradition of the ancient Church: war has never been nor will it be a means of solving problems between nations”.

They quote Pius XII’s appeal during the Second World War: “Nothing is lost with peace, everything is lost with war.”

“The harsh confrontation in Ukraine,” the statement says, “has degenerated into a large-scale military conflict that has already caused thousands of victims, has undermined trust and unity between countries and peoples and threatens the existence of the whole world.”

The statement, signed by the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Mother of God in Moscow, Paolo Pezzi, refers to the Pope’s statement in Kazakhstan – “Let us not get used to war, let us not resign ourselves to the inevitable.”

The bishops recognise that governments may resort to military action, but specify: “What has been said is true if military action is aimed at putting an end to the conflict as soon as possible and avoiding the multiplication of victims.”

Agenzia Fides reported that the statement refers to the section of article five in the Catechism which recognises recourse to war as a legitimate form of defence, but emphasises that decisions on participation must be the preserve of individual conscience. They also note the protection in the constitution of the Russian Federation for those opposed to weapons for religious or conscientious reasons.

The statement provides guidance to the approximately 240,000 Catholics in Russia, who make up 0.2 per cent of its population, amid the country’s chaotic mobilisation of 300,000 reservists to support the faltering invasion of Ukraine. The Russian government has insisted that it will call up only those with military experience, but reports suggest that many draftees have no training or are beyond retirement age.

Large numbers of young Russians are leaving the country to escape conscription, with commentators and officials suggesting that conscientious objection amounts to desertion. Hundreds have been arrested in protests against the draft.

The Russian bishops reaffirm the imperative of conscience for all Catholics, and the absolute prohibition on military participation by religious. Agenzia Fides reported that this follows the attempted enlistment of several Russian Orthodox priests.

The statement appeals to all Catholics in Russia to pray and fast for peace, and asks priests to celebrate Masses with that intention.

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