Pope Francis pleads for an end to 'abhorrent' war in Ukraine

Angelus A group of people in St. Peter's Square hold a Ukrainian flag during Pope Francis' Angelus on Sunday, March 20, in Vatican City. | Vatican Media

Pope Francis continued to call for an end to the war in Ukraine Sunday, calling the violence against innocent Ukrainians “inhuman” and “sacrilegious.”

Without mentioning Russia by name, the pope said, “Unfortunately, the violent aggression against Ukraine has not ceased; it is a senseless massacre in which atrocities are repeated every day. There is no justification for this. I plead with all actors in the international community to truly engage in bringing this abhorrent war to an end.”

The pope spoke from his balcony above St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, following the recitation of the Angelus, a Catholic Marian prayer.

During his remarks he recalled the Ukrainian refugee children he met during his surprise visit to Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital in Rome on Saturday.

Pope Francis visited Ukrainian refugee children being treated in the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital in Rome on March 19, 2022. Vatican Media
Pope Francis visited Ukrainian refugee children being treated in the Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital in Rome on March 19, 2022. Vatican Media

The children suffering from cancer, neurological diseases, and other illnesses were brought to Italy for medical treatment during the first days of the war in Ukraine. Some had serious blast wounds from the war, a Vatican spokesman said.

"This week again missiles and bombs have fallen on civilians, the elderly, children, and pregnant mothers. I went to see the wounded children who are here in Rome. One was missing an arm; one had a head injury ... innocent children," the pope reflected.

"I think of the millions of Ukrainian refugees who must flee leaving everything behind, and I feel a great pain for those who do not even have the possibility to escape. So many grandparents, sick and poor people separated from their own families, so many children and fragile people are left to die under the bombs without being able to receive help and find safety even in the air raid shelters," he continued.

"All this is inhuman! Indeed, it is also sacrilegious because it goes against the sacredness of human life, especially against defenseless human life, which must be respected and protected, not eliminated, and this comes before any strategy!" Pope Francis said.

"Let us not forget it is inhuman and sacrilegious cruelty! Let us pray in silence for those who are suffering."

Pope Francis also spoke about the Ukrainian refugee crisis, which worsens by the day. According to the latest tallies from the United Nation's refugee agency, 3,328,692 Ukrainians have left since Russia's invasion began Feb. 24. Ninety percent of these refugees are women and children, the UN reported.

An additional 6.48 million people have been displaced from their homes in Ukraine, according to an estimate by the UN's International Organization of Migration.

The pope urged Europeans to continue to welcome these refugees and generously provide for their needs in the coming weeks and months.

"As you know at first, we do all we can to welcome everyone, but then we can get used to it, and our hearts cool a bit, and we forget about it," the pope warned.

"Let us think of these women and children who in time, without work, separated from their husbands, will be sought out by the ‘vultures’ of society. Please, let us protect them," he added.

The pope praised the work of pastors and other church leaders in Ukraine who have remained with their people throughout the crisis.

"It comforts me to know that the people left under the bombs do not lack the closeness of their pastors, who in these tragic days are living the Gospel of charity and fraternity. I have spoken with some of them on the phone during these days, they are close to the people of God," Pope Francis said.

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"Thank you, dear brothers and sisters, for this witness and for the concrete support you are offering courageously to so many desperate people!" he continued. "Let us be close to this people, let us embrace them with affection, with concrete commitment and prayer."

The pope specifically mentioned the Vatican’s representative in Ukraine,  Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas. The apostolic nuncio to Ukraine revealed in an interview March 17 with Raymond Arroyo on “The World Over” that he has not left the nunciature in Kyiv because the situation outside is too dangerous.

Kulbokas said in the interview that while it is logistically feasible for the pope to travel to Kyiv, such a visit is unlikely to happen because continued Russian missile and artillery attacks on the city make it impossible to have public gatherings.

“I know that Pope Francis wants to do all that is possible for him in order to contribute for peace, so I know for sure that he is evaluating, he is thinking about all the possibilities,” the nuncio said.

Also on Sunday, Pope Francis also called on the faithful to join him on March 25 in praying for the consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. EWTN will broadcast the consecration ceremony at 12 noon EST.

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