In his weekly Sunday address from the Vatican, Pope Francis appealed to Vladimir Putin to end the military escalation in Ukraine, decrying the threat of nuclear war and for the Russian leader to “stop this spiral of violence and death.”
The pontiff said he was “saddened at the immense suffering of the Ukrainian people as a result of the aggression they have suffered.”
The pope’s plea was the first time he publicly cited Putin’s role in the war. He also used the address to once again call on Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to come to the negotiating table.
Pope Francis reiterated those comments on his official Twitter account.
My appeal is addressed first and foremost to the President of the Russian Federation, imploring him to stop this spiral of violence and death, also for the sake of his own people. #Ukraine #Russia @KremlinRussia_E
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) October 2, 2022
“I address an equally confident appeal to the president of Ukraine to be open to serious proposals for peace,” he said in Italian to scores of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “I urge all the protagonists of international life and the political leaders of nations to do everything possible to bring an end to the war, without allowing themselves to be drawn into dangerous escalations and to promote and support initiatives for dialogue.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine this past February, Pope Francis has urged Ukraine to negotiate with Putin. He has held back on publicly calling out Putin — but finally did so Sunday just two days after Russia illegally annexed four regions of eastern Ukraine.
“After seven months of hostilities, let us use all diplomatic means, even those that may not have been used so far, to bring an end to this terrible tragedy,” Francis said. “War in itself is an error and a horror.”
It is uncommon for modern pope’s to single out specific world leaders to end an armed conflict. But months of war have seemed to convince Francis to increase his rhetoric.
“It’s anguishing that the world is learning the geography of Ukraine through names like Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Zaporizhizhia and other places,” he said, “that have become places of indescribable sufferings and fears.”
The comments came as a series of key developments took place over the weekend. Fearing that Putin could use tactical nukes to secure more land, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cautioned Russia against following through with escalatory threats.
“Nuclear saber-rattling is not the kind of thing that we would expect to hear from leaders of large countries with capability,” he told CNN.
U.S. officials have said they expect Ukrainian forces to continue their counteroffensive over the coming weeks in an attempt to recapture all of their country’s territory. Zelenskyy, meanwhile, vowed to recapture more territory in eastern Ukraine after pushing out Russian forces from the city of Lyman.
“Now a Ukrainian flag is [in Lyman],” Zelenskyy said on Saturday. “During this week, there were more Ukrainian flags in Donbas. It will be even more in a week.”
by Clemente Lisi, a senior editor at Religion Unplugged