Pope Francis lamented the “sacrilegious war” in Ukraine as he prayed the Angelus in Malta on Sunday.

Speaking immediately after celebrating an outdoor Mass in the Maltese capital, Valletta, on April 3, the pope urged Catholics to pray for people aiding the suffering following the full-scale Russian invasion.

“May the Lord accompany you, and Our Lady keep you,” he said. “Let us now pray to her for peace, as we think of the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in war-torn Ukraine, still under the bombardment of this sacrilegious war. May we be tireless in praying and in offering assistance to those who suffer.”

The pope has referred to the war throughout his two-day trip to the archipelago in the central Mediterranean Sea. Before leaving Rome, he met with a group of Ukrainian refugees. On the flight to Malta, he said that a papal visit to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv was “on the table.”

In a speech to Malta’s civil authorities on the first day of his visit, the pope alluded to the war in Ukraine, saying: “Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that will either be shared, or not be at all.”

In his brief address before reciting the Angelus prayer, the pope thanked the Maltese authorities and people for their warm welcome.

He said: “These islands breathe a sense of the People of God May you continue to do so, mindful that faith grows in joy and is strengthened in giving. Forge further links in the chain of holiness that has led so many Maltese to devote their lives with enthusiasm to God and to others.”

Pope Francis also had a message for the young people of Malta.

"Dear friends, I want to share with you the most beautiful thing in life. Do you know what it is? It is the joy of giving ourselves completely in love, which makes us free," the pope said.

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"That joy has a name: It is Jesus. I wish you the beauty of falling in love with Jesus, the God of mercy, who believes in you, dreams with you, loves your lives, and will never disappoint you."

After the Angelus, Pope Francis was due to meet with migrants at the John XXIII Peace Lab, an immigration reception center in Hal Far, before departing Malta on Sunday evening. He is expected to hold a press conference during the flight.