ROME – Both Pope Francis and the leader of Ukraine’s Greek Catholic Church have condemned the targeting of a children’s hospital in Kyiv amid the ongoing war with Russia, calling for an end to violence and voicing closeness to victims.

In a July 9 statement, the Vatican said Pope Francis had learned “with great pain” of a Russian missile attack against two medical facilities in Kyiv, one of which was Ukraine’s largest pediatric hospital, as well as the recent bombing of Holy Family Catholic school in Gaza.

“The pope expresses his deep concern over the increase in violence,” the statement said, saying, “while expressing his closeness to the innocent victims and wounded, he hopes and prays that concrete paths can soon be identified to put an end to the ongoing conflicts.”

Pope Francis’s statement comes after the Israeli military Sunday conducted a raid on Holy Family Catholic school in Gaza in a bid to target Hamas militants they said were hiding there, leaving several dead and wounded.

It also comes after Russian military launched a massive missile attack on Kyiv Monday in which the 40 missiles launched throughout the city left at least 43 people dead and roughly 200 wounded, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who condemned the attack on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

One of the facilities targeted in the attack was Okhmatdyt hospital Ukraine’s largest pediatric clinic, which is famous for its cancer treatment, and which serves severely ill children and children with rare and complex diseases, as well as children who have been wounded in the ongoing war with Russia.

Reports indicate that at least four people died in the initial blast, and various wards of the hospital were destroyed while children were forced to interrupt their treatment and rushed to the building’s bomb shelter.

The hospital’s toxicology ward was destroyed, and shrapnel also tore through the main hospital building, shattering its windows, while one of the surgical rooms, where doctors had been operating on a child, was reduced to a pile of rubble.

Children receiving dialysis for kidney problems, some as young as 18 months, were taken off of machines and evacuated through hospital windows, as other children lined up outside sill holding their IVs.

According to the International Rescue Committee, the targeting of hospitals is nothing new, and more than 1,700 medical facilities have been hit since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

At the beginning of the war, the international community was shocked when Russian forces bombed a maternity ward at a hospital complex in Kyiv, killing four people and injuring 16, and leading to at least one stillbirth.

In the aftermath of Monday’s attack on Okhmatdyt, hospital staff, including some who had been wounded, continued to treat patients, while rescuers combed through the rubble searching for people, living or dead, trapped under the wreckage. They formed a human chain to clear the rubble one brick at a time.

Monday’s strike apparently came when the hospital, which treats around 20,000 children annually, was at its busiest. Soon after, news emerged that a nearby maternity unit in Kyiv had been partially destroyed by debris, killing four and wounding three people.

In a video published July 8, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, said he was “horrified” by the bombing of Okhmatdyt hospital, noting that the central hospital in the complex was called the Hospital of the Protection of Motherhood and Children.

“The rubble is still being cleared, but we already know about dozens of dead and around a hundred injured. Among the dead are children, their parents, and doctors,” he said.

Shevchuk said it was “horrifying to see that children who came to save their lives in the artificial kidney center were ruthlessly killed by Russian criminals. Many of them were on the verge of death – they were under artificial lung ventilation devices.”

Noting that many children were undergoing surgery at the time of the attack, he said the power outage “put their lives in danger,” and called the attack a “crime against humanity.”

“It is not only a crime against human laws and rules, international rules of warfare. This is a sin that cries for vengeance to heaven, according to Christian morality,” he said, saying he is crying for the victims and praying for the dead, “especially the innocent children.”

He urged the Christian community to embrace the wounded and those hurting most “with our Christian love,” and offered condolences to the families and friends of the victims, as well as his gratitude to the medical staff “for their dedication and heroism.”

“We see them saving lives even when their faces are bleeding,” he said, and lauded the medical personnel and volunteers who formed the human chain to remove stones in a bid “to save more children whose hearts are beating under the rubble.”

“Lord, by your power, instill in us hope for the protection of the lives of our women and children,” he said, and asked God to “bless our long-suffering Ukrainian land with your just peace!”

Follow Elise Ann Allen on X: @eliseannallen