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.