Celebrating Mass in a capacity-filled Cathedral, Archbishop Patrick O’Regan urged the faithful to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people.
“We fervently pray that your Holy Spirit may inspire men and women In Ukraine to become peacemakers…may the Most Holy Mother of God extend her Blessed Mantle of Protection over Ukraine,” he said.
“And may each of us always live our lives as instruments of your peace.”
In a recent General Audience Pope Francis encouraged believers and people of good will to “dedicate themselves intensely to prayer and fasting” on this day.
“May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war,” the Pope added.
He appealed to those with “political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war, who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and sisters and not enemies”.
In a letter to the faithful prior to Ash Wednesday, Archbishop O’Regan encouraged people to support humanitarian efforts including the work of Caritas.
Melville Fernandez, Caritas Australia’s Humanitarian Emergencies associate director, said vulnerable and marginalised communities would be most severely impacted by the recent increase in conflict.
“Nearly 3 million people already need humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine, and over 850,000 have been displaced,” he said.
“Now these numbers will increase dramatically – we’re looking at potentially huge numbers of people forced to flee from their homes and become reliant on humanitarian aid. We’ve already heard about people fleeing from their homes in the buffer zones around Donetsk and Luhansk.
“Access for humanitarian aid is also a major concern. It’s already hard to reach these areas, and the invasion will only make it harder. Over the years there has been extensive damage to water, gas and electricity infrastructure. We are especially worried about the reports of attacks on water facilities – there is already a water shortage and this will only make things worse.
“The impact that this conflict will have on the population is substantial. Over half of children in eastern Ukraine are currently experiencing child poverty according to UNICEF, and these conditions are only getting worse. Ukraine also has an ageing population that is more likely to stay in dangerous areas and be at risk of shelling, landmines and isolation.”
“Add into the mix the impacts of COVID-19 and low vaccination rates on an already fragile health system and it’s clear how disastrous this conflict will be for everybody impacted.”
Caritas Australia is working with Caritas Ukraine to provide vital humanitarian assistance. Caritas Ukraine will provide essential emergency response, including basic food and hygiene kits, access to clean drinking water and fuel to vulnerable households to survive the cold weather conditions.
In addition, Caritas Ukraine continues to support impacted communities with the long-term impacts of protracted conflict, including water, sanitation and hygiene, education and healthcare.
Visit caritas.org.au/donate/emergency-appeals/ukraine/ or call 1800 024 413 toll free to provide much needed support.
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