“May the Queen of Peace preserve the world from the madness of war.”
That was Pope Francis’ intercessory prayer as he called on the world’s believers to make Ash Wednesday a day of fasting and intense prayer.
He asked non-believers to join in, too, by fasting for peace.
In addition to recommending the traditional Lenten practices of fasting and praying, Pope Francis also took the unusual step Feb. 25 of visiting the Russian Embassy personally — rather than sending an ambassador.
Pope Francis appealed to the Russian ambassador to “stop the fighting and return to negotiations,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, told reporters Feb. 28.
Cardinal Parolin said, “Although what we feared and hoped would not happen has happened — the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine — I am convinced that there is always room for negotiation. It is never too late!”
“Communication and listening to each other is necessary in order to fully know and understand the reasons of others,” the cardinal said. “When people stop communicating and listening sincerely to each other, they look at each other with suspicion and end up exchanging only mutual accusations.”
On the world stage, when people stop communicating, war can follow.
Within a nation, the church or a community, a lack of sincere dialogue can lead to division, distrust and infighting.
This year during Lent, pray and fast for peace in Ukraine and offer alms for the war’s refugees.
In light of the war in Ukraine and the divisions both in the United States and in the church, let’s also add communication to our practices this Lent.
Consider how we wage our own little wars when we fail to listen sincerely or look with suspicion on one another.
From mask mandates to gun laws to life issues, the divisions are deeply personal. And while choosing “a side” may seem simple to some, the polarizing effects of these issues tell us they’re complex.
As Christians who are called to love one another, we can take the time to seek understanding. And maybe we can make some progress together.
We aren’t alone. The Holy Spirit offers gifts, such as understanding and counsel, that can help us discern a better understanding of one another and the world around us.
God, Pope Francis said Feb. 27 during his Angelus address, is with the peacemakers.