VATICAN CITY/RUSSIA: Pope Francis said on Sunday that the Ukraine situation risked a nuclear escalation with unmanageable global repercussions and pleaded with Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the “spiral of murder and death” there.
Francis also criticized Putin’s most recent annexation of portions of Ukraine as being against international law in a speech he gave to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square and was dedicated to Ukraine. In the case of an escalation, he pleaded with Putin to consider his citizens.
According to a Vatican official, the moving speech was so solemn it brought to mind Pope John XXIII’s 1962 radio plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Francis, who has frequently denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the deaths and destruction it has brought about, had never before addressed Putin in such a direct and personal manner.
Francis urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to be receptive to any “genuine peace initiative,” claiming that “rivers of blood and tears that have been poured in recent months” troubled him.
Later, Francis tweeted both of the requests to the two presidents in Ukrainian and Russian.
Francis also emphasiSed the right of all nations to “sovereign and territorial integrity” in his remarks, which came two days after Putin announced the annexation of nearly a fifth of Ukraine and placed the territories under Russia’s nuclear umbrella.
Zelensky has declared that his men will keep fighting to retake all of the Ukrainian areas that Russian soldiers have captured. Kyiv and its Western allies have denounced Putin’s annexations as unlawful.
The eastern supplies hub of Lyman was fully seized by Ukraine on Sunday, marking the country’s biggest victory on the battlefield in recent weeks.
Francis stated it was also important to respect “the rights of minorities and their genuine concerns” about ethnic Russians residing in Ukraine.
Francis described it as “anguishing” that the names of locations like Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Zaporizhzhia, and other places where people had experienced “indescribable sorrow and fear” were used to teach the world about Ukrainian geography.