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FLORENCE, Italy – Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine Sunday, condemning those who “place their trust in the diabolical logic of weapons.”
“Those who wage war forget humanity,” Francis said, speaking about the “tragic” event that is war. As he has done since the beginning of his pontificate when speaking about this conflict, the pope refused to name Russia as the aggressor, speaking only about Ukraine and asking for peace for the country.
Those who trust in the “diabolical logic of weapons,” Francis said, are far from the logic of God and also distant from the people, they serve, “who want peace. In every conflict, it is the common people who suffer the most, who pay for the madness of war with their skin.”
Francis also said there is an “urgent” need to “protect the weak,” including the elderly and children. For this reason, he called for the opening of humanitarian corridors to help the millions who have been fleeing Ukraine since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of its neighbor.
European countries such as Hungary and Poland, that have been reluctant to welcome migrants from Africa and the Middle East, have opened their borders for those fleeing this war. In three days, Hungary welcomed over 61,000 people, with no one being refused at the border.
Francis also called for weapons to “be stopped immediately,” and for people to continue praying for Ukraine, because God is with those who work for peace, not those who use violence.
“Those who love peace repudiate war as an instrument of offense to the freedom of other peoples and as a way to solve international controversies,” he said.
Next week, on Ash Wednesday, Catholics around the world are called to praying and fasting for peace in Ukraine.
Lastly, the pope called the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square, many of them with a Ukrainian flag in their hands, to “not forget” other ongoing conflicts around the world, naming Yemen, Syria and Ethiopia.
Among the public gestures by Francis in favor of peace, there has been his half-hour conversation with the Russian ambassador to the Holy See in his own embassy, virutally an unprecedented act. Soon after, he called Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Greek Catholic Ukrainian Church.
On Saturday, he called Ukrainian President President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to express “his deepest sorrow for the tragic events that are taking place in our country,” according to the Ukrainian embassy to the Holy See.
The priests with their people
Also on Sunday, Shevchuk, who is in an underground bunker below Kiev’s cathedral with several families, released a message promising that this Sunday, when people cannot go to church, “the church will come to the people.”
“Our priests will descend to the underground, they will descend to the bomb shelters, and there they will celebrate the Divine Liturgy,” he said. “The church is with its people! The church of Christ brings the Eucharistic Savior to those who are experiencing critical moments in their life, who need the strength and hope of the resurrection.”
Kiev, currently under attack by the Russian army that has thus far been unable to take over the city, has a government mandated curfew. But even without one, “everyone should stay at home because of the threat to their lives,” the prelate said.
Shevchuk also asked “all those who have the opportunity” to go to Mass this Sunday to go to Confession too, in order to receive the Eucharistic Christ and “to sacrifice for those who cannot go to church, to sacrifice Holy Communion for our soldiers,” and those who are wounded, discouraged and for the many refugees “who are on the road during this crooked war in Ukraine.”
Shevchuk also had words of support for the national government, saying that “we once doubted, wondering if our government institutions were strong,” but the first days of the invasion have shown that “our government has passed its test for strength.”