Following the military incursion of Russian forces into Ukraine overnight, Archbishop Peter A Comensoli has joined world leaders in offering his prayers for peace in the region.

‘It is with deep concern and heartbreak that we witness the military incursion of Russian forces into the sovereign nation of Ukraine,’ he said in a letter to the faithful.

‘Violent conflict is never the answer to tensions between nations; reconciliation will not come by way of unjustified military imposition.

Despite Australia being such a long way away, nonetheless the prospect of war in Europe will impact not only on the innocent civilians of Ukraine, but on all who seek harmony between peoples.’

Earlier this week, Pope Francis declared Ash Wednesday (2 March) as a Day of Fasting for Peace, and called on those in positions of political authority to ‘examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war’. Archbishop Peter A Comensoli will celebrate the Ash Wednesday Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral with Bishop Mykola Bychok CSsR, Eparch for Ukrainians in Australia, New Zealand, and Oceania. Later that evening he will join the Bishop for a liturgical service of intercession for peace at Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral in North Melbourne.

The Archbishop also encouraged prayers for other parts of the world where conflict remains, including Lebanon and the Middle East, as well as the African countries of Ethiopia and Nigeria. ‘It is not without deep concern that religious faith is part of the story in each of these places,’ he said.

All of us can do what we can in praying for the emerging conflict, for the conversion of hearts, especially for national leaders, and for working in our own back yard for peaceful action of justice and reconciliation.’

‘May the God of peace enter the hearts of those who are intent on war, and may the Queen of Peace intercede with her Son, the Prince of peace, for the sake of the peoples of Ukraine here and in their homeland.’

The 1pm Mass on Ash Wednesday will be livestreamed from St Patrick's Cathedral to the Archdiocesan YouTube Channel and broadcast on Community Channel C31 (channel 44 on digital TV).