Pope Francis thanks Italian volunteers for helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing ‘absurd war’

Pope Francis thanks Italian volunteers for helping Ukrainian refugees fleeing ‘absurd war’

Pope Francis meets members of Italy’s Civil Protection service in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall on May 23, 2022. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, May 23, 2022 / 09:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis thanked Italy’s civil protection volunteers on Monday for helping refugees fleeing the “absurd war” in Ukraine.

In a speech on May 23, the pope commended the volunteers for helping the vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic and supporting a nationwide vaccination campaign.

“Equally there has been no lack of your commitment to humanitarian assistance and the reception in Italy of refugees from Ukraine, especially women and children who have fled this absurd war,” said the pope, who has made public appearances in a wheelchair since May 5.

“Thank you for what you have done and continue to do in silence. Good does not make noise but builds the world.”

Italy’s civil protection volunteers work under the guidance of the country’s Civil Protection Department, which is responsible for the prevention and management of emergency events. The volunteers belong to more than 5,000 organizations across the country.

Later in his address, the 85-year-old pontiff recalled Pope Paul VI’s famous appeal — “never again war” — during his 1965 address to the United Nations.

“Let us repeat it today in the face of what is happening in Ukraine, and protect people’s dream of peace, peoples’ sacred right to peace,” Pope Francis said.

He was speaking on the day that the United Nations announced that, for the first time on record, more than 100 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes by conflict.

Over 6.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24. Almost 120,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Italy as of May 21, according to the country’s interior ministry.

On May 22, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he hoped that negotiations to end the war between the predominantly Orthodox Christian countries of Russia and Ukraine would start as soon as possible.

Celebrating the feast of St. Rita in Cascia, central Italy, he said: “In this land of faith and peace, here in Umbria, I hope that negotiations will begin as soon as possible and that we can finally reach the much-needed peace.”

Describing St. Rita as the “saint of the impossible and the advocate of desperate cases,” he asked for her intercession for an end to the conflict, reported Vatican News, the Holy See’s online news portal.

The U.N. human rights office said that it had recorded 8,462 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of May 22, with 3,930 people killed and 4,532 injured. But it added that the actual toll was likely to be “considerably higher.”

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