The Vatican prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, denounced Russia’s “unjustified invasion” of Ukraine this week at a liturgy at the Cathedral of Saints Sergius and Bacchus of the Ukrainians in Rome.

Cardinal Sandri told the congregation he had spoken by phone with Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Greek Ukrainian Catholic Church and had “gathered up his tears” as well as those of many Ukrainians who at this moment “are fleeing, suffering from bombings, suffering from separations, and holding in their hearts the immense, invincible pain of mothers, fathers, soldiers, and children,” who have been forced to flee.

The cardinal noted that many of his Ukrainian hearers at the Ash Wednesday service “will have to receive relatives and friends who are fleeing this senseless, unthinkable, unimaginable, inconceivable war,” as well as they may “have relatives there who have not been able to escape.”

“Therefore, I want to tell you,” he said, that “all of us, our Congregation, but all of us, the Catholic Church suffers with you and opens to you the humble arms of fraternal affection and sharing your pain and your prayer.”

The cardinal encouraged his listeners to have recourse to prayer and to “be strong” in the knowledge that God is “with us.” In the face of this war, the cardinal said, “we have no words, we have no missiles, we have no guns, we have no tanks, we do not have the force of violence that wants to impose itself at any price.”

“We have the strength of humility of those who receive the contempt of the world and of the powerful of the earth,” he added. “Our only weapon — in the face of so much shame for humanity and so much suffering — is what we have done today: pray.”

“I want to tell everyone with all my heart that Our Lady truly intercedes to bring peace and put an end to this abuse and this invincible suffering for the Ukrainian people,” the prelate declared.

“Be strong because God, the crucified Lord Jesus, and his Most Holy Mother are with us and with you,” he concluded.

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