Pope Francis Begs Putin to End the “Spiral of Violence and Death”

Pope Francis asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time directly to stop the “spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine. He did this on Sunday, saying that the crisis could lead to a nuclear escalation with uncontrollable global effects.

In an address to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square that was all about Ukraine, Francis also said that Putin’s latest move to take over parts of Ukraine was against international law. He told Putin that if things got worse, he should think about his own people.

One official at the Vatican said that the speech was so sad that it reminded him of Pope John XXIII’s radio call for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

It was the first time Francis, who has often spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the deaths and damage it has caused, directly asked Putin to stop.

Francis also asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be open to any “serious peace proposal.” He said that the “rivers of blood and tears” that have been shed in the past few months keep him up at night.

He was pleading for an end to the conflict “in the name of God,” and he said it was “absurd” that the world was in danger of a nuclear war.

“My appeal goes above all to the president of the Russian Federation, begging him to stop this spiral of violence and death, even out of love for his own people,” Francis said.

“On the other side, pained by the enormous suffering of the Ukrainian population following the aggression it suffered, I address an equally hopeful appeal to the president of Ukraine to be open to a serious peace proposal,” he said.

Francis later tweeted both messages to the two leaders in Russian and Ukrainian. Francis also emphasized that all countries have the right to “sovereignty and territorial integrity.” He said this two days after Putin annexed almost a fifth of Ukraine and put the areas under Russia’s nuclear umbrella.

Kyiv and its Western allies have said that Putin’s annexations are illegal, and Zelenskiy has said that his troops will keep fighting to take back all of the Ukrainian land that Russian forces have taken over.

On Sunday, Ukraine took full control of the logistics hub of Lyman in the east. This was Kyiv’s most important battlefield gain in weeks.

“I strongly deplore the grave situation that has been created in the last few days, with more actions that are contrary to the principles of international law,” he said in a direct reference to the annexation.

“This, in fact, increases the risk of a nuclear escalation to the point of fearing uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences on a global level,” he said.

Francis said that it was also important to respect “the rights of minorities and (their) legitimate worries.” He was talking about Russians who live in Ukraine.

Francis called it “anguishing” that the world was learning about Ukraine’s geography through the names of cities where people had endured “indescribable suffering and fear,” such as Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, and Zaporizhzhia.

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