The Catholic Primate of All Ireland, in a joint message with the Church of Ireland Primate of All Ireland, Archbishop John McDowell, said it would be unconscionable to celebrate the feast of Ireland's patron saint without reference to the ongoing war in Eastern Europe.
"Like millions of others in Europe and around the world we are deeply disturbed and saddened by the terror of war which has been devastating life and property in Ukraine for the past three weeks.
"We call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the relentless bombardment which has trapped countless civilians in a nightmare of destruction and displaced millions of others from their homes and families. We fear that the humanitarian crisis which this madness has caused may yet accelerate before it dissipates.
"It would be unconscionable for us to celebrate the feast of Saint Patrick this year without offering the solidarity of our prayers, charity and welcome for the people of Ukraine. We pray for the Ukrainian people who already share this island with us, and for their families and friends who are trapped in the horror of destruction and bloodshed at home. We join our small Lenten sacrifices with their immense suffering," the primates stated.
The Archbishops also used their St. Patrick's Day address to warn against blaming the Russian people for what is unfolding in the Ukraine.
"We also acknowledge the many Russian people, here and in their homeland, who bear no responsibility for this heart-breaking situation and who share our desire for peace and an end to this terrible violence.
"Tradition tells us that Saint Patrick himself, in the face of great danger and peril to his own life, prayed his Breastplate Prayer, taking comfort in his faith that God does not forsake us, and that Christ is present with all who suffer: Christ is always with us, behind us and before us.
"We appeal through our prayers this Saint Patrick’s Day for an end to this pointless massacre and pulverising of the property, bodies and spirit of the Ukrainian people. May all Christians of Europe, including Patriarch Kirill and the Russian Orthodox Church, unite in daily spiritual and practical efforts in support of a ceasefire, humanitarian outreach and the immediate laying down of weapons. Christ’s cause can only be advanced by Christ’s means."
The Primates reflected on St. Patrick's own experience of exile and bondage in the context of today.
"Although we are many miles away from the horrific bombardment and loss of life, the sacrifice of the Ukrainian people shockingly comes home to us this Saint Patrick’s Day. It is encouraging that Christians, people of other faiths and all those of goodwill here in Ireland are instinctively reaching out in a massive humanitarian effort of support and solidarity, especially towards the millions of refugees who have fled their homeland.
"At a young age Saint Patrick was captured and trafficked to these shores - no doubt frightened, disoriented, distressed and fearful for his life. In the opening words of his Confession, he describes how he and others 'were scattered among many nations'.
"So too the thousands of refugees arriving in Ireland must feel scattered amongst the nations. We pray that our land of welcomes will continue to offer compassionate respite to our sisters and brothers in their time of need."
The church leaders praised the many parishes and communities throughout Ireland who have rallied to the humanitarian cause of Ukraine over the past few weeks. They said the war in the east reminded us how peace can never be taken for granted.
"War is a defeat for humanity. It represents the failure of politics, diplomacy and dialogue. Our community reflection here in Ireland on what is happening today in Europe should help us learn lessons for our own peace process, about the importance of never taking our progress in peace for granted, never giving up on dialogue and the building of bridges and mutual understanding across historical divides.
"The tragedy of what we are witnessing in Ukraine during these days impels us again here in Ireland to work for a genuine human fraternity as the only way to resolve differences and conflicts," they stated.