Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Feb. 27, 2022. / Vatican Media.
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 recent days we have been shaken by something tragic: war. Time and again we have prayed that this road would not be taken. And let us not stop talking; indeed, let us pray to 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, he said: “For this reason, I renew to all the invitation to make March 2, Ash Wednesday, a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Ukraine. A day to be close to the sufferings of the Ukrainian people, to feel that we are all brothers and sisters, and to implore of God the end of the war.”
He continued: “Those who wage war forget humanity. They do not start from the people, they do not look at the real life of people, but place partisan interests and power before all else. They trust in the diabolical and perverse logic of weapons, which is the furthest from the logic of God. And they distance themselves from ordinary people, who want peace, and who — the ordinary people — are the real victims in every conflict, who pay for the follies of war with their own skin.”
In his live-streamed address, the pope said that he was thinking of “the elderly, of those who seek refuge in these times, 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 that his heart was “broken” by the scenes in Ukraine. He urged people not to forget ongoing conflicts in other countries, such as Yemen, Syria, and Ethiopia.
“I repeat: put down your 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 the Italian city of Florence on Sunday but was forced to postpone the trip due to knee pain.
Since the launch of the full-scale invasion of 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, located on the Via della Conciliazione near the Vatican. 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.
Ukraine is an Eastern European country of 44 million people bordering Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland. It is Europe’s second-largest country by area after Russia.
The U.N. refugee agency said on Feb. 27 that 368,000 people have fled Ukraine since the start of the invasion. More than 150,000 people have crossed the country’s western border into Poland. More than 43,000 have entered Romania via Ukraine’s southern border. Thousands have also crossed into Moldova, to the south, and Slovakia, to the West.
The Catholic Church in Poland is offering refuge to thousands of people fleeing Ukraine.
Funds raised will help an estimated 13,000 people across the country, including in cities facing intense fighting such as Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Kyiv.
At the end of his Angelus address, the pope referred to the many Ukrainian flags in the square below and said: “Slava Isusu Christu” (“Glory to Jesus Christ”), a traditional Ukrainian Catholic greeting.