Russian bishops: the nation must recognize conscientious objection to war

By Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic Press Service

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) – Russian bishops have said Catholics face dilemmas in response to a massive call for war in Ukraine, and they have urged President Vladimir Putin’s government to recognize conscientious objection.

“The confrontation in Ukraine has turned into a full-scale military conflict and has already claimed thousands of lives, undermining trust and unity between countries and peoples, and threatening the existence of the whole world,” he said. said the Moscow-based bishops’ conference in a pastoral letter. .

“The lawfulness of participating in hostilities is ultimately a matter of human conscience, which belongs to the most secret and holy part of man – where he is alone with God, whose correct judgment he must always obey.”

The letter, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, was released on September 28 as Ukrainian forces continued an eastern counteroffensive, a week after Putin announced that at least 300,000 reservists were called up to fight.

The bishops said their hearts were “filled with grief and helplessness” at the inability to “decisively change the situation and avoid further casualties,” adding that the mobilization had confronted Catholics with a “ most serious moral choice”.

“In certain circumstances, state authorities have not only the right, but also the obligation to use arms and to require citizens to perform the necessary duties to protect the homeland – those who honestly do their military service serve the common good,” reads the letter, signed by the Italian-born president of the conference, Archbishop Paolo Pezzi.

“All of this is true if military actions are aimed at ending a conflict quickly and avoiding a multiplication of casualties. … On the other hand, the church reminds state authorities that they must find a just solution when a person, out of conviction, refuses to take up arms and is obliged to serve the community in another way. This right is enshrined in the Constitution of the Russian Federation and we call for its constant observance.

The bishops have also responded to fears that Catholic clergy could be called up for battle. They said it was “categorically impossible for them to participate in hostilities, in accordance with both ancient Church rules and current international conventions”.

“To all our believers, we renew the calls for more prayer and fasting for a just and safe world,” added the episcopal conference.

“We ask priests to celebrate Holy Mass to preserve peace and justice, using the Eucharistic prayer for reconciliation…and including faithful petitions for the cessation of hostilities and the preservation of human life.”

In a September 22 Catholic News Service interview, a high priest in Russia said Catholics were divided on the war in Ukraine, with about 20 percent supporting it, 40 percent “categorically opposed,” and another 40 percent “observing.” what is happening “. especially if things get worse and family members are killed.

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