Patriarch Bartholomew urges peace in Ukraine amid invasion threat
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I has added his influential voice to the many world leaders calling for the “preservation of peace in Ukraine.”
Speaking on Sunday following the celebration of the Divine Liturgy, the Ecumenical Patriarch encouraged all people to pray fervently for peace and expressed his firm opposition to a “new war in Europe.”
His appeal came on the same day Pope Francis urged Christians at the Sunday Angelus address to pause for a moment to pray for Ukraine.
Patriarch Bartholomew recalled that peace is a choice that must be shared by everyone engaged in the crisis.
“The possibility of a new war in Europe, resulting from the escalation of violent rhetoric and militarization of the borders between Russia and Ukraine, should be unequivocally opposed. We call for enduring peace, stability and justice in the region.”
War, said the Patriarch of Constantinople, can only seem enticing to those who have not endured its painful consequences.
He also expressed his belief that dialogue is the only path toward peace, since it “abolishes the conditions that lead to violence and war.”
“We call upon all parties involved to pursue this path of dialogue and respect for international law, in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony. Arms are not the solution.”
Patriarch Bartholomew added that “silence and indifference are not an option” and urged all parties to remain vigilant and strive for peace.
Flurry of diplomatic activity
Russia has amassed over 100,000 troops along its borders with Ukraine, and several battalions are conducting military exercises in Belarus. The deployment puts large numbers of troops to the North, South, and East of Ukraine, even within striking distance of the capital, Kyiv.
High-level phone calls and face-to-face meetings between Russian and Western leaders have been held in recent days.
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz flew Monday to Kyiv for talks with his Ukrainian counterpart, and is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday in Moscow.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) speaking with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
Possibly ‘imminent’ invasion
US President Joe Biden spoke to President Putin by phone on Saturday. On Sunday, US officials warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could happen “any day now”, claiming that Russia could stage a false attack on its own forces as a pretext for an invasion.
Ukraine took the added step of requesting an urgent meeting with Russian leaders within 48 hours.
The foreign minister said Ukraine hopes to receive a formal explanation of the Russian troop buildup.
Russia has consistently denied any plans to invade its neighbor.