Archive photo of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which was hit by Russian shelling overnight Archive photo of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which was hit by Russian shelling overnight 

Ukraine: Asian bishops join Pope urging end to Russian invasion

Cardinal Bo of Yangon has released a statement on behalf of Asia’s bishops, calling for an end to the Russian aggression that possibly could lead to a nuclear disaster.

By Robin Gomes

The bishops of Asia have joined Pope Francis in appealing to Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine and seek a peaceful resolution to all issues at the United Nations, warning that the possible use of weapons of mass destruction would lead to a nuclear holocaust.

“We join Pope Francis in appealing to the rulers of Russia and to all others who believe in the power of violence, to solve world problems through peaceful means and dialogue in the UN,” Myanmar Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon said on Friday. 

Pope’s peace efforts

Pope Francis has been closely following the developments in Ukraine since before Russia’s large-scale military invasion of its neighbour on February 24. He has made several appeals for peace through dialogue and negotiation.

Sensing the winds of war with Russia’s buildup at Ukraine’s border, he used his weekly General Audience of February 23 “to appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war,” and who wants us to be brothers and not enemies.

He thus invited all to observe March 2, Ash Wednesday, as a day of fasting and prayer for peace in the region, saying “Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God's weapons, with prayer and fasting”. He urged, “May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”

The day after the invasion, the Holy Father chose to visit the Russian Embassy to the Holy See in Rome, where he spoke for over half an hour with Ambassador Alexander Avdeev, expressing his concern about the war.

UN mandate

Following in the steps of the Pope, Cardinal Bo, who is president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), said, “We appeal directly to President Putin. Russia is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, tasked with promoting world peace and ensuring the rights of every nation... We appeal to Russia to cease attacks on Ukraine, and return to the UN for peaceful resolution of all issues,” he wrote in a statement.

Stressing “peace is always possible; peace is the only way for humanity’s future,” the 73-year-old Cardinal expressed hope over Wednesday’s overwhelming vote at the UN General Assembly demanding an immediate halt to Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine and the withdrawal of all Russian troops. “More than 140 countries voted against this war of attrition which threatens to destroy human security and respect for global institutions,” he said.

Spectre of nuclear holocaust

On Friday, a fire at a training building at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant seized by Russian forces on Friday sent a chilling alarm across the globe. However, the huge blaze at Europe’s largest power plant has been extinguished and officials said the facility was now safe.

Voicing the concerns of Asia’s bishops, Cardinal Bo warned that “the nightmare scenario of a global nuclear holocaust is frighteningly becoming a possibility.” He said “The massive attacks on Ukraine and the impending threat of use of weapons of mass destruction, have brought the world to the threshold of self-annihilation,” adding, “The heart-wrenching scenes of Ukraine attacks have shocked the world.”

Lessons of history

Stressing that “history is a cruel teacher”, the Cardinal, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, said “megalomaniac men unleashed the demons of two sadistic world wars” in the last century. “The memory of the holocaust remains a festering wound in the human conscience.” 

“There were no victors in those wars,” he pointed out, adding, “History mummified those evil men in unmarked graves as fossils of human cruelty.” This should not repeat itself in the 21st century, he urged, arguing “the world has suffered a lot, encountering the multidimensional crisis of a pandemic that killed millions dealing a blow to the economy, impoverishing millions”. “This is the time for global healing not hurting,” Cardinal Bo added.

Several Asian bishops have also separately denounced Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

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04 March 2022, 14:12