Pope warns of danger of nuclear war; appeals to Putin on Ukraine

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for a ceasefire, pleaded with him to stop “this spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine and denounced the “absurd” risk of the “uncontrollable” consequences of a nuclear attack if tensions escalate sharply over the war.

Francis made his strongest plea to date on the seven-month-old conflict, which he denounced as a “wrong and an abomination”.

It was the first time he publicly cited Putin’s role in the war. The pope also called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to “be open” to serious peace proposals.

Francis told the audience, gathered in St. Peter’s Square, that he was abandoning his usual religious theme for his Sunday afternoon remarks to focus his reflection on Ukraine.

“How the war in Ukraine is progressing has become so serious, devastating and threatening that it is of great concern,” Francis said.

“In fact, instead of shrinking, this terrible, unimaginable wound to humanity continues to bleed and threatens to expand,” the pope said.

“I deeply regret the serious situation that has arisen in recent days, with further actions contrary to the principles of international law,” Francis said, in a clear reference to Putin’s illegal annexation of much of eastern Ukraine. . increases the risk of nuclear escalation, to the point of fear of uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences on a global scale.”

“Rivers of blood and tears that have flowed these months haunt me,” the Pope said. “I feel pain from the thousands of victims, especially among the children, and from so much destruction that many people and huge areas with cold and starvation,” he said.

“Certain actions can never be justified, never,” the pope said. He didn’t work out. But Putin tried to justify launching the invasion by saying he needed to protect his country from what he called “Nazi” elements in Ukraine.

“It is frightening that the world is getting to know the geography of Ukraine through names like Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Zaporizhizhia and other places, which have become places of indescribable suffering and fear,” Francis said.

“And what about humanity once again facing atomic threat? It’s absurd,” Francis said, then calling for an immediate ceasefire.

“My appeal is mainly addressed to the President of the Russian Federation, and beg him, also out of love for his people, to stop this spiral of violence and death,” Francis said. “On the other hand, pained by the immense suffering of the Ukrainian people after the aggression it has endured, I make an equally trusting appeal to the President of Ukraine to be open to serious proposals for peace,” Francis said.

It is rare for the Pope to single out leaders in his frequent calls to end violent conflict. In doing so, Francis showed his extreme concern about the deteriorating situation.

“May arms cease and conditions be sought to start negotiations that can lead to solutions that are not imposed by force but agreed upon, just and stable,” Francis said. “And they will if they are based on respect for the sacred value of human life, as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, as well as minority rights and legitimate interests.”

Invoking God’s name and the “human feeling that resides in every heart,” he repeated his many pleas for an immediate ceasefire.

Without elaborating further, Francis also called for the “utilization of all diplomatic tools, including those that may not have been used thus far, to bring an end to this immense tragedy.”

“The war itself is a mistake and a horror,” lamented the Pope.

Throughout the war, Francis denounced the use of weapons. But recently he emphasized Ukraine’s right to defend itself against aggression. Logistical complications have frustrated his often expressed hopes of making a pilgrimage to Ukraine to encourage peace efforts.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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