VATICAN CITY: The head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis, called for an immediate stop to the raging Russia-Ukraine conflict, which he called “world war” on Wednesday. He urged “everyone to be builders of peace” as he invoked special prayers for “martyred Ukraine”.
At the end of his weekly audience in St Peter’s Square in the Vatican city, he said, “I am not forgetting martyred Ukraine.”
The pontiff also said, “Faced with all the war scenarios of our time, I ask everyone to be builders of peace and to pray that thoughts and projects of harmony and reconciliation may spread throughout the world. Today we are living through a world war, let us stop please.”
Ever since Russia launched its “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24 this year, the pope has on several occasions condemned the conflict, expressing his dismay at the degenerating state of world affairs.
While he has outrightly criticised the aggressive forces as imposing an attack on world security and peace, he has simultaneously withheld from heaping direct criticism on Russian President Vladimir Putin, perhaps on fear of political bias.
“To the Virgin Mary we entrust the victims of every war, especially the dear Ukrainian population,” Francis said, addressing thousands of pilgrims.In June, he implicitly accused Russia of “armed conquest, expansionism and imperialism.”
A month later, in an exclusive interview with news agency Reuters, he expressed his wish to visit the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv as well as the Russian capital Moscow, preferably first, to promote peace.
In early March, when the conflict was in its nascent stages, the Pope was alarmed by the severity of Russian aggression on Ukrainian soil. He refused to accept Russia’s terminology of “special military operation” and instead called it a full-fledged war, aimed at sowing the seeds of dissent, “death, destruction and misery”.
“War is madness! Stop, please! Look at this cruelty,” he added.
Two Roman Catholic cardinals who had gone to Ukraine to help those in need bore the Pope’s message of hope and peace. “The Holy See is willing to do everything to put itself at the service of peace,” the Pope had stated.
Pope Francis also thanked the press and journalists on the ground, who were actively and diligently reporting the facts of brutality and suffering in the midst of fighting.
“I would also like to thank the journalists who put their lives at risk to provide information. Thank you, brothers and sisters, for this service that allows us to be close to the tragedy of that population and enables us to assess the cruelty of war,” he said.
The comments posted by the Pope have been the most urgent and passionate calls for peace. However, the pontiff was diplomatic so as to not pick a political side and heap the blame solely on Russia. He made his appeals for peace and security on grounds of humanitarian prosperity.
In its defence, Russia has consistently maintained that its military operation is not targeted toward the annexation of Ukraine or dissolving the current government or even disrespecting Ukraine’s border.
On the contrary, it is an active attempt to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities, capture what it regards as its dangerous nationalist rulers and protect Russian-speaking minorities in the land.