Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Feb. 27, 2022. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2022 / 04:21 am (CNA).

Pope Francis appealed on Sunday for an end to the Ukraine conflict.

In his first direct public comments since the Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, the pope called for humanitarian corridors to be opened to allow Ukrainians to flee the intense fighting.

“In these days we have been shocked by something tragic: war. Several times we have prayed that this road would not be taken. And we do not stop speaking, indeed, we beg God more intensely,” he said after reciting the Angelus on Feb. 27.

Referring to his appeal to people around the world to pray and fast for peace on Ash Wednesday, March 2, he said: “This is why I renew the invitation to everyone to make March 2 a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine, a day to be close to the suffering of the Ukrainian people and to say we are all brothers and begging God for an end to the war.”

He continued: “Those who wage war forget humanity. They do not start from the people. They do not look at the concrete life of people, but put before everything the interests of parties and power. They rely on the diabolical and perverse logic of weapons, which is the farthest from God’s will and distances themselves from the ordinary people who want peace, and which in every conflict the ordinary people are the first victims, who pay for the follies of war with their own skin.”

In his live-streamed address, he pope said that he was thinking “of the elderly, of those who are seeking refuge in these hours, of mothers fleeing with their children. They are brothers and sisters, for whom it is urgent to open humanitarian corridors and who must be welcomed.”

As pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square held up large Ukrainian flags, the 85-year-old pope said he was “heartbroken” by the scenes in Ukraine and urged people not to forget ongoing conflicts in other countries, such as Yemen, Syria, and Ethiopia.

“Silence the weapons: God is with the peacemakers, not with those who use violence, because those who love peace, as the Italian Constitution states, ‘repudiate war as an instrument of offence against the liberty of other peoples and as a means for settling international disputes.’”

Pope Francis had been due to visit Florence on Sunday but was forced to postpone the trip due to knee pain.

Since the launch of the full-scale invasion Ukraine, the pope has engaged in behind-the-scenes efforts to help end the conflict.

On Feb. 25, he visited the Russian Embassy to the Holy See. The Catholic author George Weigel told Catholic World Report that the pope spoke with Putin via a secure telephone line during the visit. The Holy See press office said that the pope went to the embassy “to show his concern for the war,” but did not mention a phone call to the Russian president.

On the same day, Pope Francis called Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, who is based in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The pope promised to do everything he can to help end the war.

On Feb. 26, Pope Francis expressed his sorrow at the situation in Ukraine in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.