Peace be with you

Published on 4th Apr, 2022

WelCom April 2022

The Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa arranged for the celebration of Mass for the people of the Ukraine, held at St Teresa’s Pro Cathedral in Karori, on 17 March. The Diplomatic Corp as well as parishioners were invited to this Mass to pray for peace and hope. The following are excerpts from Cardinal John’s homily and Archbishop Rugambwa’s address.

Cardinal John Dew Archbishop of Wellington Apostolic Administrator of Palmerston North Diocese

This Mass would normally have been celebrated at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Hill St, Thorndon. Sadly our Cathedral is closed for strengthening and maintenance work. Our weekday Masses are currently celebrated in Connolly Hall, which is within the Cathedral precinct. For the last two weeks as I have stood at the altar, I have been able to see the Ukrainian flag flying at the British High Commission next door. It has been an everyday reminder to bring this heart-breaking situation before God in the silence of prayer and the prayer of silence.

War is never glorious. As Pope Francis has said, ‘war sows death, destruction, and misery. And we weep – as we do now – for the tragedy which is war’.

It is only a few years ago since we remembered the end of the First World War. In recent years, I went to France to visit where my grandfather had been killed just a few days before the end of the War. One hundred years later, tears filled my eyes, and I am sure the eyes of countless others as they had also stood in such places – sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, grandchildren – who still carry the pain of war. War is a trauma that lingers deep in our hearts and that is why we feel profound disquiet at this time. We need to pray.

The news of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shaken us all, even though it was not unexpected we had hoped and hoped there would be a de-escalation.

We weep for those on whom this war has been inflicted. We can only imagine the gut-wrenching turmoil for the people of Ukraine as they defend their homeland, and as they also seek safety for their children and the vulnerable.

It has been heartbreaking to see the tearful partings of children travelling to neighbouring countries, the agony of those injured and traumatised, and those packing a few precious belongings to begin an uncertain journey as refugees.

Celebrating Mass for the people of the Ukraine, l-r: Fr Tikoura Kautu, assistant priest and Fr Ron Bennett, parish priest for Otari Parish; Cardinal John Dew; Archbishop Novatus Rugambwa; and Fr Vaughan Leslie, parish priest for the Catholic Parish of Whanganui. Photo: Annette Scullion

‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ said Jesus, just as he said, ‘blessed are the poor, the hungry, the weeping’. It is hard to believe the people of the Ukraine are ‘blessed’ when they are forced into homelessness, anxiousness and distress. When Jesus spoke the words ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ he did not speak these words from a distance, but as one who experienced them personally. God knows what the people of Ukraine are going through. We pray all Ukrainians know something of the comforting presence of Christ.

Today our hearts go out to those in Ukraine who are experiencing all kinds of poverty, who are hungry and those who weep for love and loss.

We have invited you here today to pray earnestly that the people of Ukraine might know God’s peace, where all tears are wiped away, where there is no hunger, where there is joy; and we pray that those who are oppressing them and destroying the hopes of Ukrainians will turn away from this evil.

This Mass is being celebrated on the Feast of St Patrick. It won’t seem odd to the people of Ireland; a people who know turmoil. And Irish people in both Ukraine and Russia, will be praying today – praying for an end to this war and for peace.

In today’s Gospel (Luke 10: 1-9) Jesus sent out 72 disciples telling them to go and wherever they went to let their first words be, ‘Peace to this house’. Patrick knew those words when he set out for Ireland. Peace is clearly something Jesus desired. In fact, one of the most common phrases of his ministry is ‘Peace be with you’. It was also the first thing the Risen Jesus said to his disciples after the Resurrection.

It is clear Jesus desired peace for all. He also wanted unity, that’s why he prayed: ‘That they may all be one’. Peace and unity are at the heart of the Christian message. We have invited you here today to pray. Please join us in this Mass begging God to help us and all people of good will bring about peace in Ukraine.

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