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Church Leaders in South Africa Support Pope Francis Offer to Mediate Russia-Ukraine War

Pope Francis greets a group of Ukrainian soldiers at the end of his weekly general audience on 23 May 2018 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican. Credit: Aleteia

Church leaders in South Africa have expressed their “full support” for Pope Francis’ offer to arbitrate for an end to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In a Tuesday, March 1 statement addressed to Pope Francis, members of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) pray that the Holy Father be considered “the trusted broker” by both Ukraine and Russia. 

“We write to express the full support and encouragement of our churches in South Africa for the divinely inspired and most holy initiative of His Holiness to offer to mediate on an urgent basis, a peace settlement that will guarantee lasting peace between Moscow and Kyiv,” SACC leadership says.

Officials of the organization that includes members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) say the Holy Father’s offer “is an expression of the nearness of God to human suffering, for indeed violence begets more violence in a spiral that leaves untold suffering and devastation.” 

They say Pope Francis' offer to broker a round of talks “is God’s answer to the prayer behind our call in South Africa for a high-level peace initiative to bring about a ceasefire and dialogue, which we believe needs to be undergirded by the spirit of what we refer to in South Africa as ubuntu.”

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The representatives of church leaders in South Africa explain, "Ubuntu is an African approach to life whose core manifests the love ethos of Jesus Christ who says love one another; if there is this love amongst you, all will know that you are my disciples”. 

They say the majority of the people of Russia and Ukraine are Christians to whom ubuntu "must especially apply." 

In their statement, the church leaders also join Pope Francis’ call for Ash Wednesday to be a day of intense prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine. 

“We pray for a readiness for an unconditional ceasefire, the commitment to genuine dialogue for lasting peace and security for all sides; and the creation of conditions for humanitarian assistance to displaced and desperate people,” representatives of Christian leaders in South Africa say. 

They add, “We are especially concerned for the elderly, the sick and the disabled who cannot even flee for safety. This peace mission is indeed in the character of Christ: preaching the good news to the poor; to heal the brokenhearted; recovery of sight to the blind; and to set at liberty those who are oppressed — that they may have life and have it abundantly!”

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“We offer our support in any way we can; but above all we shall uphold the mission before God and soak Your Holiness and this mission in prayer,” SACC officials say.