ROME — Christians must have faith that God will bring peace to Ukraine, Ethiopia, Syria and other parts of the world suffering from violence even if, for now, “everything seems to be going in the opposite direction,” Pope Francis said.
“Let us not stop praying, fasting, helping and working so that the paths of peace find space in the jungle of conflicts,” the pope said June 23 during a meeting with a Vatican coalition of funding agencies, known by its Italian acronym, ROACO.
Coordinated by the Dicastery for Eastern Churches, ROACO assists Eastern-rite churches around the world as well as the Latin-rite church in North Africa and the Middle East. The agencies include the U.S.-based Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Catholic Relief Services, as well as Aid to the Church in Need, Caritas Internationalis and Catholic charities in Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the dicastery, told the pope the agencies come from “countries challenged by secularization, by the crisis of faith and vocations, with some scandals from the past and present, but also by discussions and polarization even within the churches and Christian communities.”
However, he said, they still experience the generosity of Catholics and a desire to help others by casting “the nets of charity into the depths of the desolation of the countries and churches we follow.”
Pope Francis urged the ROACO members to “keep before your eyes the icon of the good Samaritan” as they see people in need and answer the call to respond, especially, to the crisis in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and to “the beloved and tormented Ukraine.”
In Russia’s invasion and continuing bombardment of Ukraine, he said, “we have returned to the drama of Cain and Abel; a life-destroying violence has been unleashed, a Lucifer-like, diabolical violence, to which we believers are called to react with the power of prayer, with the concrete help of charity, with every Christian means so that weapons give way to negotiations.”
“I would like to thank you for helping to bring the caress of the church and the pope to Ukraine and to the countries where refugees have been welcomed,” he said.
“In faith, we know that the heights of human pride and idolatry will be lowered, and the valleys of desolation and tears filled,” the pope said, “but we would also like to see Isaiah’s prophecy of peace soon fulfilled: that one people will no longer raise its hand against another people, that swords will become plowshares and spears scythes.”
“Instead, everything seems to be going in the opposite direction: food decreases and the din of weapons increases,” he said.
But, working together, the pope said, Catholics can make a difference like ROACO is doing in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, where charitable projects may be “a drop in the ocean of need,” but that drop is essential while pushing the international community and local authorities to find lasting solutions.