Pope Francis at the general audience in the Vatican, Aug. 24, 2022 / Pablo Esparza / CNA
Rome Newsroom, Aug 24, 2022 / 05:03 am (CNA).
Pope Francis made a special appeal for peace between Ukraine and Russia at Wednesday’s end of his general audience.
“Today in a special way, six months from the start of the war, we think of Ukraine and Russia, both countries I have consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” he said on Aug. 24.
“May she, as Mother, turn her gaze on these two beloved countries: see Ukraine, see Russia and bring us peace,” he prayed. “We need peace.”
The pope has frequently appealed for peace in Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of the country on Feb. 24.
The six-month anniversary of the invasion also coincides with Ukraine’s Independence Day, the Aug. 24 holiday commemorating the country’s 1991 Declaration of Independence.
“I renew my invitation to implore peace from the Lord for the beloved Ukrainian people who for six months — today — have been suffering the horror of war,” Francis said in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, after a catechesis on old age, death, and the resurrection of the body.
He said: “I carry in my heart the prisoners, especially those in fragile conditions, and call on the responsible authorities to work for their release.”
“I think of the children, so many dead, then so many refugees — here in Italy there are so many — so many wounded, so many Ukrainian children and Russian children who have become orphans,” he continued. “Orphanhood has no nationality, they have lost their father or mother, whether Russian or Ukrainian.”
The pope said he hopes concrete steps will be taken to end the war and avert the risk of a nuclear disaster in Zaporizhzhia, a nuclear power station in southeastern Ukraine.
Zaporizhzhia is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and among the ten largest in the world. In March, the power station was captured by Russian troops. This month, concerns about the possibility of nuclear disaster have grown as nearby artillery fire has again struck the station.
Officials at the European Union and United Nations are calling for a demilitarized zone around the power plant.
Pope Francis also drew attention Wednesday to the cruelty of war and the price paid by innocent people for the madness of others.
“The innocent pay for war, the innocent,” he emphasized. “Let us think about this reality and say to each other: war is madness. And those who profit from war and the arms trade are thugs who kill humanity.”
The pope said he also has in mind other countries suffering from war — including Syria and Yemen, where children are going hungry — and the Rohingya people who have been driven from Burma.