Cardinal Hollerich on Ukraine crisis: War is a consequence of sin
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE) joins his voice to increasing calls for peace and the exploration of non-military solutions to the worsening situation caused by the Russian invasion of its neighbouring Ukraine.
Vatican Radio caught up with him in Florence where he is attending the "Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace" Meeting that gathers Bishops and Mayors of Mediterranean cities to build fraternal bridges of collaboration and mutual support.
In the face of the escalating conflict in Ukraine, the Cardinal calls for the use of both “spiritual weapons” and “political weapons” – prayer and diplomacy – to get peace talks to start on the path towards a cessation of the crisis.
The evil of war
War “is the fruit of sin, and perhaps, we have forgotten sin too much in our prosperous Europe,” said Cardinal Hollerich in an interview with Vatican News.
“But sin is present,” he continued. “People get killed, people fall into poverty, people have to leave their country and take refuge in other European countries.”
“War is never romantic nor beautiful,” the Cardinal stressed, lamenting the widows, childless mothers and the massive collateral damage that the military actions have already caused and will still cause if they continue.
“This is evil,” he strongly insists. “And we should ask the party which brought the invasion to stop.”
Amid reports of thousands of people flooding the frontiers of Ukraine’s neighbours in a bid to escape the fighting, Cardinal Hollerich underlines the importance of showing solidarity to those in need.
This solidarity, he explains, “is accepting people if necessary” especially in countries where the language spoken is similar to theirs. It also includes helping them with the basic necessities of food and clothing, including financially.
Already, the Church in the region has started to extend its hand to those fleeing the war. In addition to praying for the people of Ukraine, Church leaders have begun to mobilize to support state efforts to welcome people running away from the fighting.
In this regard, Cardinal Hollerich also calls for a fair distribution of the responsibility of accepting the refugees among European nations, according to the capacity of each state.
Florence Charter: sign of hope and peace
As of the time of the interview, Cardinal Hollerich was one of the participants of a “Mediterranean, Frontier of Peace” meeting which gathered Bishops and Mayors of major cities surrounding the Mediterranean in Florence, Italy from 23 – 27 February. On 26 February, the Church and civil authorities jointly signed the “Florence Charter” – a document highlighting the values and ideals agreed upon "to inspire them in their future journey, decrease discrimination and violence and open horizons of hope for young generations” in countries surrounding the Mare Nostrum.
The Cardinal notes that the bishops and mayors meeting, which come at a time when war is starting in Europe, is “a prophetic sign for hope and for peace.”
“When in other regions the arms are speaking, we speak together, with each other,” he said.
The value of diversity
In spite of the great diversity represented by the mayors and bishops present at the meeting, Cardinal Hollerich highlights the value that the differences bring to the discussions, especially in the drafting of the Florence Charter.
However, he notes that overall, all of the meeting’s participants share “a common love for people who live around the Mediterranean Sea” and a desire to see “people, especially the young people, be happy in future.”
To achieve this, he stressed the need for collaborative efforts between Church and state to create “a space for dreams,” to ensure a bright future for the young.
One key challenge of the Mediterranean area is the issue of migration which was a major discussion point at the meeting. In fact, the cross-Mediterranean route is a major port of entry for many people, particularly Africans, in their quest to make the shores of Europe.
On this, the Cardinal underlines the need for the European Union to aid African countries to get prosperity which will, in turn, reduce the number of people who feel to migrate abroad from Africa, even though everyone has the right to migrate.
“I think it's imperative,” he said. “Europe and Africa both continents would profit from a common prosperity.”