Amid violence and political unrest in Ukraine in past weeks, one video clip stood out on the evening news. It was taken after the violence of clashes in mid-February, and captured an Orthodox priest rushing — amid continued violence — from one fallen man to the next, anointing them as they laid dead or dying in the square.
The crisis in Ukraine is, sadly, another on the long list of ongoing conflicts around the world. At the end of his weekly audience Feb. 20, Pope Francis assured those in the Ukraine of his prayers — “for victims of the violence, for their families and for the injured.” He also called “on all sides to stop every violent action and seek agreement and peace.”
Pope Francis again implored for peace in a homily on Feb. 25, calling war “a scandal to be mourned every day.”
“When we were children in Sunday School, and we were told the story of Cain and Abel, we couldn’t accept that someone would kill their own brother,” he said. “And yet today millions kill their own brothers and we’re used to it: There are entire peoples divided, killing each other over a piece of land, a racial hatred, an ambition.”
One can only pray that the pope’s cries for peace — for Ukraine, for the Central African Republic, for Syria, for Nigeria and elsewhere — will not fall on deaf ears. And one can only pray that, at least for a while, priests will be able to focus on sacraments centered on the beginning of life rather than the end.
Such a simple action in the middle of such devastation.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor of OSV Newsweekly.