European Churches call for Easter truce in Ukraine
By Lisa Zengarini
As the fighting goes on in Ukraine, European Churches have joined Pope Francis in asking Russian and Ukrainian leaders for a general Easter ceasefire so as to give Christians in both countries the opportunity to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord “in peace and dignity”.
The truce should start on 17 April, Easter Sunday according to the Gregorian calendar, to 24 April, Easter Sunday in Eastern Churches, following the Julian Calendar.
The appeal was made in three joint letters signed by Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich SJ and and Rev. Christian Krieger, respectively Presidents of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), and of the Conference of European Churches (CEC).
Giving some respite to those suffering the conflict
“Such a truce would also be of benefit to all the citizens of both your countries, giving them a respite from the worrying uncertainty about the lives of their loved ones who are either fighting in the conflicts or affected by them”, the two Church leaders wrote in their letters addressed to the Presidents of Russia and Ukraine Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Pope Francis' appeal
Cardinal Hollerich and Rev. Krieger invited all communities throughout Europe to join their call, which echoes Pope Francis’s appeal on 10 April.
Before the recitation of the Angelus prayer on Palm Sunday, the Pope urged both contendants to “put their weapons down” during the Easter celebrations, “not to rearm and resume combat – he said – but to reach peace through real negotiations open to some sacrifices for the good of the people.”
Appeal to Patriarch Kirill
The Presidents of CEC and COMECE also informed Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia about their appeal, urging him in a separate letter to support the initiative.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church has taken a controversial stance on the war in Ukraine, which has sparked criticism even in the Orthodox world with some members asking the World Council of Churches (WCC) to expel the Patriarchate of Moscow from the ecumenical organization.
Asked recently about this issue, the acting general secretary of WCC, Reverend Ioan Sauca, said such a decision is taken by the Central Committee of the WCC only after serious discernment, hearings, visit to and dialogue with the Churches concerned, and debates.
For his part, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople last week expressed his regret over Patriarch Kirill’s remarks in favour of the war, saying that whatever the issues between Russia and Ukraine, nothing can justify the Russian aggression and indiscriminate violence against civilians.