Pope Francis, in his 'Easter of war' speech, calls for peace for Ukraine

Pope Francis, in his ‘Easter of war’ speech, calls for peace for Ukraine

Pope Francis, in his ‘Easter of war’ speech, calls for peace for Ukraine

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Pope Francis, in an Easter speech delivered to tens of thousands of faithful in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, called for “peace for war-torn Ukraine” and caution in conflicts that could lead to nuclear war.

Under the bright sun in front of a crowd celebrating the return to tradition after the restrictions linked to the pandemic of previous years, the pope called the Sunday feast a “war Easter”.

“We’ve seen too much blood, too much violence,” he said. “Our hearts too have been filled with fear and anguish, as many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock up to be safe from the bombing.”

“Let us all commit ourselves to pleading for peace, from our balconies and in our streets,” he said, in an appeal for people to take up the cause. “May the leaders of nations listen to the people’s plea for peace.”

He quoted a line from a 1955 manifesto by physicist Albert Einstein and philosopher Bertrand Russell, in which scientists and thinkers warn of the risks posed by nuclear weapons, writing: “Must we end the human race or will humanity give up on war?”

The Easter message capped off a weekend of religious events for Catholics. Orthodox Christians in Ukraine and elsewhere celebrate Easter on April 24.

Three Ukrainian lawmakers and Melitopol mayor Ivan Fedorov, who was reportedly kidnapped by Russian forces and released during a prisoner exchange, attended the pope’s Easter vigil on Saturday, where he addressed them directly. “In this darkness that you are experiencing, Mr. Mayor, parliamentarians, the thick darkness of war, of cruelty, we are all praying, praying with you and for you this night,” he said.

The pope’s Good Friday sermon at the Colosseum in Rome called for a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine, drawing criticism from Ukrainian religious leaders who did not like Ukrainians and Russians to carry a cross together during the service.

Although the pope has often spoken in support of Ukraine since the start of the war, he has so far avoided naming Russia as the aggressor, or calling what is happening in Ukraine an invasion. His Easter Sunday address was no exception. He said Ukraine was “dragged” into a “cruel and senseless war”, but he didn’t say by whom. He mentioned Ukraine and the Ukrainians by name, but not Russia.

Sofika Zielyk, ethnographer and artist, tells the story of pysanky, the traditional Ukrainian Easter eggs and how she is using them to help Ukraine. (Video: Zoeann Murphy / The Washington Post)

The message highlighted the consequences of the war for Ukraine and its people, in particular “the millions of refugees and internally displaced people, families divided, the elderly left to fend for themselves, lives broken and cities burned to the ground”.

“I see the faces of orphaned children fleeing the war,” Francis said. “Looking at them, we cannot help but hear their cry of pain, along with that of all the other children who suffer around the world: those who are dying of hunger or lack of medical care, those who are victims of abuse and violence, and those who have been denied the right to be born “.

He praised European nations for opening their doors to Ukrainian refugees, but suggested that the same welcome should be extended to other vulnerable people fleeing conflict elsewhere. He raised his hopes for a peaceful resolution of other conflicts around the world.

After apologizing in early April for the “deplorable conduct” of some Catholics in the Canadian residential school system, which separated at least 150,000 indigenous children from their families to assimilate them, the pope said on Sunday he hoped for the success of the “reconciliation journey. that the Catholic Church in Canada is doing with indigenous peoples ”.

“May the Spirit of the risen Christ heal the wounds of the past and dispose hearts to seek truth and fraternity,” he said.

The Pope apologizes for the ‘deplorable conduct’ of some Catholics in residential schools

The pope concluded his speech with an appeal for peace: “Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility! “

Stefano Pitrelli, Amanda Coletta, Lateshia Beachum and Tobi Raji contributed to this report.

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