Pope says UN, international organizations ‘impotent’ in Ukraine war


ROME – Pope Francis said that international organizations, such as the United Nations, have proven to be useless in stopping violence and atrocities in the war in Ukraine.

Speaking on Wednesday about the massacres in the recently freed city of Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, the pope denounced the “increasingly horrendous cruelties [that] are also committed against civilians and defenseless children. They are victims whose innocent blood cries out to the heavens and implores: Put an end to this war, silence the weapons, stop sowing death.”

Speaking about his trip to Malta last weekend, he said the Mediterranean nation was a country that represents the “rights and power” of the nations that, though being small, are rich in history and civilizations.

He proposed Malta as an example that should lead the international community towards a logic that is not dominated by the most powerful countries.

“Today we often hear about ‘geopolitics’,” Francis said. “But unfortunately, the dominant logic is the strategies of the most powerful countries to affirm their own interests, extending their area of economic, ideological and military influence. We are seeing this in the war.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks via remote feed during a meeting of the UN Security Council, Tuesday, April 5, 2022, at United Nations headquarters. Zelenskyy will address the U.N. Security Council for the first time Tuesday at a meeting that is certain to focus on what appear to be widespread deliberate killings of civilians by Russian troops. (Credit: John Minchillo/AP.)

He said that following World War II, an attempt was made to lay the foundations of a new “era of peace, but unfortunately, we do not learn.”

“Unfortunately, the old story of competition between the greater powers went on,” the pope said. “And, in the current war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the impotence of organizations of the United Nations.”

Francis’s criticism of the United Nations comes a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the UN’s Security Council – where Russia has veto power – and called it useless.

After speaking of witnessing the ISIS-like scenes that unfolded under the Russian occupation of Bucha — including civilians with their throats slashed and limbs cut off – the Ukrainian leader asked: “Where is the security that the Security Council is supposed to guarantee?”

The veto power Russia enjoys as one of the five permanent members of the 15-member Security Council has enabled the country to carry on its campaign of violence and mass killing in Ukraine without fear of international intervention, Zelenskyy said.

He called for the Security Council to either be immediately reformed to ensure fairer global representation and for Russia’s veto to be removed, or for the body to be dissolved altogether.

“Are you ready to close the UN?” he said. “Do you think that the time of international law is gone? If your answer is no, then you need to act immediately.”

A woman walks by a house destroyed while her village was occupied by Russian troops in Andriivka, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 5, 2022. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian troops of gruesome atrocities in Ukraine and told the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday that those responsible should immediately be brought up on war crimes charges in front of a tribunal like the one set up at Nuremberg after World War II. (Credit: Vadim Ghirda/AP.)

Towards the end of the audience, Pope Francis held a Ukrainian flag that was brought to him from Bucha.

“This flag comes from war,” he said. “From the martyred city of Bucha.”

He then invited a group of Ukrainian children who were seated to his right, accompanied by two women, to join him and asked those present to pray for and with the children.

“These children were forced to flee and arrive in a strange land,” he said. “This is one of the fruits of war. Let us not forget them, and let us not forget the Ukrainian people.”

According to the latest numbers from the United Nations, 4,215,047 Ukrainians have fled the country since Feb. 24.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that in addition to Ukrainian refugees, nearly 205,500 non-Ukrainians living, studying or working in the country have also left. Neighboring Poland, which has taken the bulk of those fleeing – with over 2.5 million coming in during the past 40 days – is hosting people from 170 nations.

Meanwhile, nearly 6.48 million people were estimated to be internally displaced within Ukraine as of mid-March, according to IOM.

Women and children account for 90 percent of those who have left Ukraine. Men aged 18 to 60 are eligible for military service and unable to leave.

Follow Inés San Martín on Twitter: @inesanma

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