Polish priest prays for peace as he takes in 24 Ukrainian refugees

LUBACZOW, Poland, March 22 (Reuters) - A Polish priest who has taken 24 Ukrainian refugees into his home says he hopes prayer can bring an end to the war, as Poland struggles to accommodate more than 2 million new arrivals fleeing a Russian invasion of their homeland.

Over 3.5 million people have fled abroad from the war in Ukraine, United Nations data showed on Tuesday, with the majority crossing into Poland, home to the biggest Ukrainian Diaspora in the region even before the war.

"After the outbreak of the war, our parish has turned into a house for refugees," said Roman Karpowicz, a Catholic priest in the town of Lubaczow, around 13 km (8 miles) from the Ukrainian border.

"There are people who are staying here permanently, that is nine women and 15 children," Karpowicz said, adding that the youngest among them was just two weeks old.

With men of conscription age obliged to stay in Ukraine, the exodus has consisted primarily of women and children, many wanting to stay in countries near Ukraine to be closer to loved ones left behind.

Karpowicz said his parish was helping refugees search for flats and helping them with travel to other parts of Poland.

As some of the refugees in Karpowicz's vicarage cradled babies in their arms or busied themselves with preparing food, others could be seen praying.

"I think that only prayer and the Lord God can end this war," Karpowicz said.

"We don't have other tools, we don't have weapons here, we have the rosary and prayers, those are our most important weapons."

Reporting by Gabriele Pileri and Kacper Pempel, writing by Felix Hoske, Lewis MacDonald and Alan Charlish; Editing by Nick Macfie

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