POPE FRANCIS DECLAIRS 2 MARCH A DAY OF FASTING FOR PEACE IN UCRAINE

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - A "serious examination of conscience" before God who wants peace not war and "who wants us to be brothers not enemies," was Pope Francis' appeal once again this wednesday to all  those with political responsibility for the conflict in Ukraine.

Speaking at the end of the general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, he also announced a day of fasting and prayer for 2 March, Ash Wednesday, so that "the Queen of Peace may preserve the world from the madness of war".

"Despite the diplomatic efforts of the last few weeks, increasingly alarming scenarios are opening up. Like me, many people all over the world are feeling anguish and concern. Once again the peace of all is threatened by partisan interests. I would like to appeal to those with political responsibility to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war; who is the Father of all, not just of some, who wants us to be brothers and not enemies".

"I pray that all the parties involved," he continued, "refrain from any action that would cause even more suffering to the people, destabilising coexistence between nations and bringing international law into disrepute. I would like to appeal to everyone, believers and non-believers alike: Jesus taught us that the diabolical senselessness of violence is answered with God's weapons, with prayer and fasting. I invite everyone next 2 March, Ash Wednesday, to make a day of fasting for peace. I encourage believers in a special way to devote themselves intensively to prayer and fasting on that day".

The appeal came at the end of a general audience during which the pontiff opened a new cycle of catechesis dedicated to the meaning and value of old age. "For some decades now, this stage of life has concerned a veritable "new people", the elderly. There have never been so many of us in human history. The risk of being discarded is even more frequent: never have so many as now, been at risk of being discarded. The elderly are often seen as 'a burden'. In the dramatic first phase of the pandemic it was they who paid the highest price. They were already the weakest and most neglected group: we did not look at them too much when they were alive, we did not even see them die.

Francis urged us to beware of "a dominant culture that has as its sole model the young adult, that is, an individual who is self-made and always remains young". "The exaltation of youth as the only age worthy of embodying the human ideal, combined with contempt for old age seen as frailty, degradation, disability, was the dominant icon of the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century. Have we already forgotten that?" he warned.

Hence the invitation to cultivate a "covenant between the generations" on which the Word of God has much to teach. Commenting on Joel's prophecy "your elders will have dreams, your young people will have visions" (3:1), he invited people to read it like this: "when the elders resist the Spirit, burying their dreams in the past, the young people can no longer see the things that must be done to open up the future". "Young people who no longer question the dreams of their elders, putting their heads down on visions that do not go beyond their noses," he continued, "will struggle to carry their present and bear their future. If grandparents fall back on their melancholies, young people will care even more about their smartphones. The screen may stay on, but life will die out before its time".

Old age," the Pope concluded, "if it is not restored to the dignity of a humanly worthy life, is destined to close in on itself in a despondency that robs everyone of love. This challenge of humanity and civilisation requires our commitment and God's help. Let us ask the Holy Spirit for it.