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Pope Francis condemned the Russia-Ukraine conflict in his strongest language yet during his weekly address in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Sunday.
“Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine,” the pope said. “It is not merely a military operation, but a war which sows death, destruction and misery. The number of victims is increasing, as are the people fleeing, especially mothers and children.”
“The need for humanitarian assistance in that troubled country is growing dramatically by the hour,” Francis continued. “War is madness! Stop, please! Look at this cruelty!”
Shortly after the outbreak of hostilities last month, Pope Francis made the extraordinary papal gesture of going to the Russian embassy in Rome to express his concern about the war.
The pope’s homily on Sunday continued his habit of refraining from publicly calling out Russia, presumably for fear of antagonizing the Russian Orthodox Church, with which he is trying to build stronger ties.
Pope Francis holds his homily during a Mass on the Solemnity of the Epiphany at St. Peter’s Basilica on Jan. 6, 2022, in Vatican City. (AleVatican Pool/Getty Images)
The pope’s exhortation echoed that of more than 280 Russian Orthodox clergy, who signed an open letter urging for an end to the “fratricidal war” in Ukraine, as of Sunday.
“We mourn the ordeal to which our brothers and sisters in Ukraine were undeservedly subjected,” the letter read, according to a translation in The Christian Post.
Morning fog surrounds the thousand-year-old Monastery of the Caves, also known as Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra, one of the holiest sites of Eastern Orthodox Christians, in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)
The clergy also lamented the divisions the ongoing conflict has torn open, writing, “It saddens us to think of the gulf that our children and grandchildren in Russia and Ukraine will have to bridge in order to begin to be friends again, to respect and love each other.”
“Stop the war,” they urged.
A 2018 survey found that about 67.3% of Ukraine’s population identifies as some type of Orthodox Christianity, with 28.7% part of the Kyiv-based Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), 23.4% simply “Orthodox,” and 12.8% UOC-MP.
The Associated Press and Fox News Digital’s Tyler O’Neil contributed to this report.