In his strongest call so far to end the seven-month-old war in Ukraine, Pope Francis implored Russian President Vladimir Putin to “stop this spiral of violence and death” before it intensifies into nuclear conflict.
For the first time in public, Francis criticized Putin’s role in the war. Speaking to a gathering of the faithful in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican October 2, the pontiff said he was foregoing the religious theme he usually reserves for his Sunday noon remarks so that he could focus his thoughts solely on Ukraine.
“Rivers of blood and tears spilled these months torment me,” said the pope. “I am pained by the thousands of victims, in particular among the children, and by so much destruction, that leaves many persons and families homeless and threatens vast territories with cold and hunger.”
“How the war is going in Ukraine has become so grave, devastating and threatening that it sparks great worry,” the pope added. “In fact, this terrible, inconceivable wound of humanity, instead of shrinking, continues to bleed even more, threatening to spread.”
Denouncing the conflict as an “error and a horror,” the pope said he is anguished that the world outside Ukraine is learning about its geography through the names of war-ravaged cities and regions such as Bucha, Irpin and Mariupol—“places of indescribable sufferings and fears.”
The pontiff spoke of the “uncontrollable” repercussions stemming of a Russian nuclear attack that Putin has recently threatened, effectively forcing the world to once again confront the specter of mass annihilation.
“I deplore strongly the grave situation created in the last days, with further actions contrary to the principles of international law,” the pope said. “It, in fact, increases the risk of a nuclear escalation,” he warned, “to the point of fearing uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences on the world level.”
“My appeal is directed above all to the president of the Russian Federation, imploring him to stop, also for the love of his people, this spiral of violence and death,” the pope said.
“On the other side, pained by the immense suffering of the Ukrainian people following the aggression undergone,” Francis urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to “be open to serious proposals of peace.”
“May arms cease and conditions be searched for to start negotiations able to lead to solutions not imposed by force but agreed upon, just and stable,” the pope said.
“And they will be thus,” he added, “if they are based on respect for the sacrosanct value of human life as well as on the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of every country, as well as the rights of minorities and of legitimate concerns.”
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