Joining worldwide Ukrainian Church, U.S. bishops designate Feb. 24 as a 'solemn day of prayer, fasting and almsgiving'
PHILADELPHIA (OSV News) -- As Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine marks its first anniversary, the U.S. bishops' international policy chairman pleaded for peace amid a war that has left "no corner of the globe untouched."
"We renew our call for an end to all hostilities and appeal to the global community to create frameworks for justice and a lasting peace to be realized," said Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace. He made the comments in a Feb. 22 statement released in Washington.
The declaration took on new urgency as Russia announced Feb. 21 it would suspend its participation in the New START treaty, the last remaining nuclear weapons agreement between the U.S. and Russia.
Signed in 2010, New START limits both parties to 1,550 nuclear warheads, and allows for on-site inspections and information exchanges. Although Russia's foreign ministry later said Moscow would continue to follow the terms of the treaty, which expire Feb. 4, 2026, Bishop Malloy said the suspension "further demonstrates the demise of the commitment to advancing responsible nuclear arms control measure," dimming "prospects for the resolution of this conflict."
In the USCCB statement, Bishop Malloy urged faithful and people of good will to set aside Feb. 24 -- the day in 2022 on which Russian forces poured into Ukraine after a months-long buildup at the border -- "as a solemn day of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, beseeching the Lord to bring an end to the fighting and a return to justice and peace in Ukraine."
Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron encouraged Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit to observe the day of prayer in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
"Tomorrow, as we mark one year since the invasion of Ukraine, I encourage the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Detroit to join with Catholics worldwide for a solemn day of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We stand in prayerful solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters and join our voices to the international chorus calling for a swift and just end to this war," Archbishop Vigneron said.
Locally, an ecumenical prayer vigil will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at St. Mary the Protectress Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Southfield.
The commemoration is in solidarity with that announced by Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, on behalf of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC) Synod of Bishops.
A Feb. 21 letter from Archbishop Borys Gudziak, metropolitan archbishop of Philadelphia of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, thanked the U.S. Church for its support of the people of Ukraine.
"Having just returned from Ukraine, I convey to you the deep gratitude of the Catholic hierarchs, clergy and faithful, both Eastern and Western, and of the general population of Ukraine for the outstanding spiritual and material solidarity that American Catholics have demonstrated towards the suffering people of Ukraine," Archbishop Gudziak said in his letter to the U.S. bishops. "Your prayer, advocacy, and humanitarian aid are saving lives and giving hope to tens of millions. Nevertheless, the brutal war and war crimes continue."
Russia's war on Ukraine continues attacks it launched in 2014 with the attempted annexation of Crimea and the backing of separatist factions in Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions. From 2014 to 2021, some 14,400 Ukrainians were killed and 39,000 injured in Russian attacks, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Since the Feb. 24, 2022, invasion, more than 8,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and more than 13,200 injured. Officially 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, according to Ukraine's government, although the actual death toll is likely much higher. More than 8 million refugees have been recorded across Europe, with 4.85 million registered for some form of temporary protection, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
More than 16,200 Ukrainian children have been abducted by Russia, according to Ukraine's government. With some 66,000 war crimes reported, Ukraine has filed charges of genocide by Russia with the International Court of Justice.
The "expanding war" has also caused "energy and food production disruptions, environmental degradation and high inflation," said Bishop Malloy, "with the poor bearing (the) heaviest tolls."
The USCCB committee chairman commended "U.S. Catholic faithful and American people at large" for their efforts to aid Ukraine over the past year by giving sacrificially, and providing critical aid to those whose lives and homes have been uprooted in the scourge of war."
With Russian President Vladimir Putin vowing in a Feb. 21 speech to redouble the battle, such aid will remain crucial.
"We call on the faithful to continue to pray for peace," Bishop Mallow said, "and to continue to give generously to Catholic and other humanitarian organizations that are providing continued and much needed assistance."
Detroit Catholic contributed to this report.