Bishop of Plymouth the Rt Rev Mark O’Toole has strongly urged all Catholics to go to Mass this Ash Wednesday to pray for peace in Ukraine.
The message follows Pope Francis’ call to observe Ash Wednesday as a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace.
“War has come again to Europe,” said the chair of the Department of Evangelisation and Discipleship at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
“It is almost unimaginable for us who have lived in peace for so long. Our hearts and our prayers go out to the Ukrainian people and to all peace-loving Russians. We also pray and hope for the conversion of hearts and minds of those bent on war and aggression.”
Bishop Mark urged all Catholics to pick up the weapon of prayer: “Physical attendance at Mass, for those who are able, can be a practise that is lived in these days as an act of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are suffering.”
He said the weapon of fasting is an act of solidarity with the poor.
“Fasting entails denying ourselves some good, usually some food, but it can also be some particular enjoyment, such as watching TV or using the internet or social media
“How shocking it has been for us to see the scenes of panic food and fuel-buying in Ukraine, of the very real sacrifices forced on people as a result of war. Fasting brings us closer to them.”
And he added: “I hope our countries will be generous in receiving these desperate brothers and sisters fleeing for safety from war in their homeland.”