By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) – While palm leaves were burning in a crackling fire at the Franciscan Monastery in the Holy Land in Washington, atoning Father Jim Gardiner drew attention to a more sinister fire burning in another part of the world.
“There are other types of fires in the world that are breaking our hearts right now. We see the homes of people destroyed in Ukraine and elsewhere, “he said on February 27 in front of a crowd that gathered to see his palms reduced to a fine powder to be used at this year’s Gray Wednesday Liturgies at the monastery.
Not far from the monastery, the Basilica National Altar of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Catholic church in North America, a few hours later lit up in blue and yellow in the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
Such manifestations of solidarity and unity among Catholics have become commonplace, even in the US church, where, as in the rest of the country, church members usually disagree with each other – divided politically on any number of issues.
But Ukraine seems to be a rare point of unity. As Russia intensified its attacks on March 1, carrying out major offensives in various Ukrainian cities, many Catholics intensified their prayers.
We encourage everyone to join the invitation of Pope Francis to make March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of fasting and prayers for peace.https: //t.co/U99IeZVIyU.
– Sisters of Mercy (@SistersofMercy) February 26, 2022
The Sisters of Mercy in the Americas encouraged Catholics to attend Ash Wednesday on March 2, accompanying Pope Francis’ call to fast and pray for peace for Ukraine.
“We are deeply saddened by all the suffering of the ongoing humanitarian crisis and echo the repeated call of our church leaders that war is ‘always a defeat for humanity,'” the congregation said in a press release.
After the Russian missiles damaged the main television tower in Kyiv, an administrative building and a hospital, on March 1, the Catholic Legal Immigration Network Inc., known as CLINIC, called on US government officials to speed up the extension of certain immigration provisions for Ukrainians who were already in the US.
“Ukrainians will be forced to leave their homes, and Ukrainians in the United States must be protected so that they are not harmed,” CLINIC said.
At the diocesan level, the bishops with a significant number of Ukrainians in their flock organized Masses and special prayer services to comfort those concerned about friends and family in their home country.
Bishop Robert J. Brennan of Brooklyn, New York, posted on Twitter on February 26 a visit with the Ukrainian community to the Guardian Angel Church in Brighton Beach, saying that “do what Catholics do in times of trouble: Pour out our hearts . and ask for his protection. ”
Tonight, I joined the Ukrainian community at the Guardian Angel Church in Brighton Beach in prayer, doing what Catholics do in times of trouble. We pour out our hearts to God and ask for protection from Ukraine, all its people, and those dear to those gathered tonight. pic.twitter.com/OdSwNq6aDB
– Bishop Robert Brennan (@bishopofbklyn) February 27, 2022
Along with the Auxiliary Bishop of Brooklyn, Witold Mroziewski, Bishop Brennan celebrated a special liturgy to pray for the suffering people in Ukraine.
“I am sorry that we are gathered here with fear, concern and concern for those who are at home, especially for your family members,” he said. “My heart breaks with your heart, but we are filled with the same sense of hope, and that hope comes to us because of Jesus Christ, who faced evil in his own eyes and rose from sin and death. May God bless you tonight, may God bless all your families in the days to come. ”