Pope Francis Pleads With Putin to End the War in Ukraine
Francis also called on Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be open to "serious peace proposals.”
Pope Francis appealed to Russian president Vladimir Putin on Sunday to "stop this spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine and denounced the “absurd” risk of nuclear escalation as the war enters its eighth month.
“I am saddened by the rivers of blood and tears spilled in these months. I am saddened by the thousands of victims, especially children, and the destruction which has left many people and families homeless and threaten vast territories with cold and hunger,” Francis said in an address to thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “What is to happen next? How much blood must still flow for us to realize that war is never a solution, only destruction? In the name of God and in the name of the sense of humanity that dwells in every heart, I renew my call for an immediate ceasefire.”
Though Francis has frequently commented on the course of the Ukraine conflict, his Sunday address marks his first direct appeal to Putin to end the war. “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,” he added.
Francis also called on Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who ruled out peace talks with Russia for as long as Putin remains in power following Moscow’s decision to annex around 15 percent of Ukraine, to be open to "serious peace proposals.” Putin insisted last Friday in a speech recognizing the results of referendums in four occupied regions—Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk—on joining the Russian Federation that Moscow is ready for negotiations with Kyiv, but that the status of the newly-annexed territories is off the table.
Francis highlighted the mounting risks of a nuclear strike. “And what about the fact that humanity is once again faced with the atomic threat?” he said. “It is absurd.” The Pope’s comments come at a time when Russia is engaged in “the most serious escalation since the start of the war,” according to comments made last week by NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Ukrainian forces captured the strategic eastern city of Lyman on Sunday, a move that Ukraine’s military officials say sets the stage for further offensives in the neighboring Luhansk area. The recent setbacks faced by Russia’s military have sparked renewed calls by hawkish Russian commentators and politicians, notably including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, for the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in 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. War in itself is an error and a horror!” Francis said.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.