“Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil.” – Pope Francis, Fratelli tutti, 261

On the 24th of February 2022, the world was greeted with the dismal news that Russia had commenced a full-scale military invasion on Ukraine. The news was worrying as it evoked memories of World War I and World War II. For many, it was unconceivable that in the 21st century, a military superpower such as Russia would declare a war for the purposes of annexing another territory in Europe.

Ukraine and Russia share a complicated history. It had been embroiled in conflict for the past 8 years. In 2014, Russia had seized and established military control over Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in the South. This marked the start of an ongoing conflict between the Ukrainian military, the Russian-backed rebels, and Russian troops. While Ukraine and Russia are two separate and independent countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and share economic, cultural, and social ties, the Russian annexation of the Crimean Peninsula was not only unlawful, but it also marked the first time that a European state had seized another European state’s territory since World War II (Yekelchyk, 2022).

The geography of Ukraine is particularly volatile and complex, as it shares an expansive border with Russia, Belarus in the North, and Moldova in the South, and other EU/NATO states, such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania.

The Church’s stance on any war is clear:

At stake are human lives and human life “is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” (CCC. 2258) We are reminded of the destructive action that Cain embarked upon against his brother Abel – “Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.’” (CCC. 2259)

All citizens and governments have a moral duty, responsibility, and obligation to uphold peace and to work towards the avoidance of war. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in the face of a legitimate war however, governments “cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.” (CCC. 2308). There is nonetheless, a set of criteria to justify what constitutes a lawful self-defence.

“The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

– the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

– all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

– there must be serious prospects of success;

– the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.” (CCC. 2309)

The Catechism goes on to say that “’Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation.’ A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons – to commit such crimes.” (CCC. 2314)

Thus, Russia annexing Ukraine can be viewed in the light of a grave crime and can be seen as a grievous and heinous mortal sin to be condemned.

In the face of these affronts against humanity, we should also not underestimate the power of nations who unite in prayer for peace.

The Battle of Lepanto occurred on the 7th of October, 1571 under the papacy of Pope Pius V. The Christian Kingdoms had been at war with the Ottoman Empire. In this instance, a coalition of the nations of Spain, the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Duchy of Savoy, the Habsburgs, and the Knights Hospitaller won a decisive battle against the Ottoman war galleys at sea (Britannica, 2021; New World Encyclopedia, n.d.) This was in short, nothing less than a miracle, as the odds were stacked against the Christian Kingdoms. The Holy League was vastly outnumbered by the Ottoman troops, and to add to the uncertainty, they were fighting a sea battle, of which the Ottoman Empire had had a track record of not ever losing a sea battle with their superior naval fleet.

During this time, Pope Pius V ordered a sanction of all the churches in Rome to be opened for 24 hours a day and exhorted the Faithful to pray the Rosary and to obtain the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When Pope Pius V received word of the victorious defeat of the Ottoman Empire by the Holy League, he thus instituted the 7th of October as the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. This would later be changed by Pope Gregory XIII, Pope Pius V’s successor to that of the Feast of the Holy Rosary (Grunow, 2017).

This victory garnered only by the help of Divine Intervention and the intercession of Mother Mary, recalls a similar incident in 1240. The Saracen mercenaries of Frederick II had laid siege over Spoleto. The Saracens were also about to destroy the unprotected and small convent of the Poor Ladies of San Damiano. The Saracens had already begun to scale the wall of the convent. Clare of Assisi, who at this time was lying sick in bed, rose calmly, and took the ciborium from the chapel that was beside her cell, and raised the Blessed Sacrament at the open window to which the Saracens had already placed a ladder and who were rapidly ascending. As the Blessed Sacrament was raised, accounts report that the Saracens who were about to enter the convent fell backwards as if dazed and dazzled by a strong, unexplainable light. A Holy Fear took over the Saracens and the Saracens inexplicably made a retreat and left the convent, and even stranger, the city un-harassed (Kosloski, 2019; Robinson, 1908).

Scripture is filled with many such instances when prayer stormed the heavens and the Lord God granted victory in favour of His people. Queen Esther and Modecai in the Book of Esther for example exhorted the people to fast and to cry out to God; the Battle of Jericho; Peter being released from the chains which held him. Examples too many to count.

What then is the message of hope in this time of war and uncertainty? The message is this:

“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless. God who is merciful will hear your prayer. “ – St. Padre Pio.


By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Britannica. (2021, September 30). Battle of LepantoEncyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved February 26, 2022 from https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Lepanto

Catechism of the Catholic Church. Article 5 The Fifth Commandment. Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Grunow, S. (2017). Our Lady of the Rosary and the Battle of Lepanto. Word on Fire. Retrieved February 26, 2022 from https://www.wordonfire.org/articles/our-lady-of-the-rosary-and-the-battle-of-lepanto/

Kosloski, P. (2019). How St. Clare Miraculously Defeated An Entire Army. Aleteia. Retrieved February 26, 2022 from https://aleteia.org/2019/08/11/how-st-clare-miraculously-defeated-an-entire-army/

New World Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Battle of Lepanto. New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved February 26, 2022 from https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Battle_of_Lepanto

Pope Francis. (2020). Fratelli tutti.  Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Robinson, P. (1908). St. Clare of Assisi. The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved February 26, 2022 from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04004a.htm

Yekelchyk, S.  (2022). Russia-Ukraine crisis: 9 milestone moments in history that explain today’s invasion. History Extra. Retrieved February 26, 2022 from https://www.historyextra.com/period/general-history/russia-invade-ukraine-history-relationship-crimea-why-conflict-facts/