(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.
New urgency for peace between Ukraine and Russia
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.”
Set aside Feb. 24 as a day of prayer, fasting and almsgiving for Ukraine
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.”
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.
Thousands have been killed in attacks
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.”
USCCB commends American people for their efforts to aid Ukraine
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.”
Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaJesseReina.Tags: USCCB, War in Ukraine