Today is the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. In a short while, as I write, Pope Francis will be at the basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls for the traditional Second Vespers that mark the end of the annual week of Prayer for Christian Unity. EWTN will carry that event (5:30 pm Rome time).

As you will see in two stories below, we need prayers not only for Christian unity but also for Ukraine (Pope Francis has declared tomorrow, Wednesday, January 26, as a Day of Prayer for Ukraine) and for Tonga ravaged by an underwater volcano explosion and resulting tsunami that was tens of times stronger than the Atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima, as scientists are now telling us.


Pope Francis has proposed Wednesday, January 26 as a day of prayer for peace for Ukraine, and has expressed his concern over the increasing tensions that threaten peace and security in Ukraine and the rest of Europe. In an interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, spoke of the crisis in the country, over which there is a spectre of conflict.

Svitlana Duckhovych – Vaticannews

These are the hours of diplomacy that seek to defuse conflict between Ukraine and Russia through negotiation. The West and Russia are trying to mediate a crisis that has now lasted for years for the Ukrainian population, from the “low-intensity” conflict, as analysts define it, to the current winds of war. (photo: talks between US and Russia)

The apostolic nuncio to the country, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, speaking to Vatican News, says people are comforted by the closeness shown once again by Pope Francis last Sunday at the Angelus.

How has the Pope’s appeal been received in Ukraine?

Here in Ukraine, Pope Francis is one of the religious personalities most respected by the local population, so this appeal by the Pope after last Sunday’s Angelus prayer was immediately received as very important news, which lifts the heart, expresses closeness and solidarity, and during times of difficulty like these in Ukraine, knowing that you are not alone and forgotten is already a great help.

 How is the current situation being perceived among the population?

In this period of my mission as nuncio, there is the war that has been going on for eight years in the eastern regions of the country, and it has certainly created many problems. There are those who have lost their loved ones, and I have also personally met several people who have been hard hit – there are those who have lost their health, their homes, their jobs – but all this has made Ukrainians stronger in the face of difficulties.

The risk of a possible worsening of the conflict is experienced with more courage. There is concern, but at the same time, I have noticed a lot of love for the homeland and also a great decision to do one’s part if there are difficulties. As many people know, there are native Ukrainians here, and there are regions with a predominance of Russians, or others where there is a significant presence of Polish, but this month I have been able to appreciate the love on everyone’s part. I am not saying that there are no difficulties, but in general the conflict seems to have increased cohesion throughout the country.

How is the local Church experiencing this situation?

I am answering mainly with reference to the Catholics in Ukraine, but there are also the Orthodox Churches and other Churches. As we know, in the Greek Catholic Churches and also in the Latin Rite Catholic Churches since 2014, the year the conflict began, during all the Eucharistic celebrations and also in other moments of prayer, there is always a moment of prayer for peace. In these last few weeks, the prayer for peace is even more present, stronger, and it will be especially so on Wednesday, January 26, at the invitation of Pope Francis and in union with him and all men of goodwill.

What is the importance of prayer for the Ukrainian people at this time?

I have asked myself this question many times and my conclusion is that we must consider above all our vocation as believers in Christ and our vocation as human beings. As we have seen, even Pope Francis in last Sunday’s appeal stressed that we are not worthy to call ourselves men and women if we do not consider others as our brothers and sisters.

The prophet Isaiah said: God will not hear your prayer unless you are converted, unless you live justice, unless you live mercy. Therefore, this prayer that we live, we live it for peace; but the meaning of this prayer is above all that we convert ourselves, to live fidelity to God and to live brotherhood and mercy towards all, with humility, with courage, with creativity, to say to the Lord: I now entrust everything into your hands.


Monday evening, January 24, Cardinal Michael Czerny S.J., ad interim prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, presided over a special prayer service for the people of Tonga, devasted by the destructive volcano eruption and tsunami of January 15. Although only three people died, the natural disaster has caused massive and longterm damage in the island nation that now depends on international aid for reconstruction. The prayer service was held in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere. At the end of the prayer service, the cardinal addressed those present.

He noted the relief work led by Caritas with the help of the New Zealand navy, and called for prayers asking God to relieve the brothers and sisters in Tonga from “discouragement and despair” and “to make the violence of nature cease” so that Tongans may rebuild what has been destroyed. He invited people to implore God “to touch the hearts of men and women, so that they devote the resources of science to relieving peoples from natural disasters, climate change, disease, poverty, and exclusion.” Cardinal Czerny calls for prayers and solidarity for Tonga – Vatican News