Pope Francis Appeals to Putin: ‘Stop This Spiral of Violence and Death’


Pope Francis meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican in July 2019. (Photo by Vatican Pool/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – At a moment of grave peril in Europe, Pope Francis on Sunday issued a direct appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time since he invaded Ukraine last February, “imploring him to stop this spiral of violence and death, also for the sake of his own people.”

In an address to thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Francis appealed also to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “to be open to serious proposals for peace,” and urged world leaders to “do everything possible to bring an end to the war, without allowing themselves to be drawn into dangerous escalations, and to promote and support initiatives for dialogue.”

The Pope was speaking two days after Putin upped the ante in his standoff against the West by annexing four Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine  – and warned that Russia would now defend those areas, using “all available means.”

The annexation was widely denounced, although Russia hours later vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning it.  Zelenskyy responded by announcing that Kyiv was applying for “accelerated accession to NATO” and ruling out any further negotiations with Putin. (“We are ready for dialogue, but with another president of Russia.”)

In his address on Sunday, Francis spoke out against Russia’s decision to annex the Ukrainian regions, a move that has been accompanied by veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in the conflict.

“I deeply deplore the grave situation that has arisen in recent days, with further actions contrary to the principles of international law,” he said. “It increases the risk of nuclear escalation, giving rise to fears of uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences worldwide.”

The Pope called the war, now in its eighth month, “an error and a horror.”

“I am saddened by the rivers of blood and tears spilled in these months. I am saddened by the thousands of victims, especially children, and the destruction which has left many people and families homeless and threaten vast territories with cold and hunger. Certain actions can never be justified, never! It is disturbing that the world is learning the geography of Ukraine through names such as Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izyum, Zaporizhzhia and other areas, which have become places of indescribable suffering and fear. And what about the fact that humanity is once again faced with the atomic threat? It is absurd.

What is to happen next? How much blood must still flow for us to realize that war is never a solution, only destruction? In the name of God and in the name of the sense of humanity that dwells in every heart, I renew my call for an immediate ceasefire. Let there be a halt to arms, and let us seek the conditions for negotiations that will lead to solutions that are not imposed by force, but consensual, just and stable. And they will be so if they are based on respect for the sacrosanct value of human life, as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, and the rights of minorities and legitimate concerns.”

The Pope has spoken out against the war before now, but has never publicly appealed directly to the Russian and Ukrainian presidents in this way.

In May, Francis in an interview with an Italian newspaper offered to meet with Putin in a bid to broker a ceasefire, disclosing that he had first made the offer – via Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin – just 20 days after the war began, but had not received any response.

At the time he suggested that NATO’s expansion into countries near Russia – or what he called “NATO’s barking at Russia’s door” – had perhaps “facilitated” the invasion.

Weeks later the Pope raised concern publicly about food price hikes and shortages arising from the conflict, urging the parties not to “use wheat, a staple food, as a weapon of war.”

“Of great concern is the blockade of grain exports from Ukraine, on which the lives of millions of people depend, especially in the poorest countries,” he said.

A U.N.- and Turkish-brokered deal reached in July providing for the shipping of Ukrainian grain that had been blocked in port as a result of the war, has helped to ease the crisis.

Senior Russian Orthodox Church leaders attended Friday’s annexation ceremony at the Kremlin. (Photo: Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate)

Senior Russian Orthodox Church leaders attended Friday’s annexation ceremony at the Kremlin. (Photo: Russian Orthodox Church Moscow Patriarchate)


How much influence the leader of the Roman Catholic Church may be able to bear on the Russian leadership is unclear.

The Russian Orthodox Church has thrown its significant weight behind Putin’s war, to the extent that it sent high-ranking representatives, including the head of the Moscow Patriarchate, to Friday’s ornate annexation ceremony at the Kremlin.

Last week the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch of Moscow Kirill, sent a senior church official, Vakhtang Kipshidze, to a “multireligious peace roundtable” in Tokyo, where he again laid out the church’s position.

According to Department for External Church Relations, Kipshidze “said that the Russian Orthodox Church has been praying for peace in Ukraine since 2014 with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus, and considers the NATO members, which reckon Russia as an enemy, guilty of escalation of the conflict rather than the peoples of Russia and Ukraine.”

He denied reports the Kirill had given his “blessing” to the war, calling them part of a disinformation campaign spread by media outlets because they want the Patriarch to take “the side of NATO in this conflict,” and side against the Russian government.

Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis held a virtual meeting in mid-March, just weeks after the invasion began. In a statement afterwards the Vatican said the conversation had focused “on the war in Ukraine and on the role of Christians and their pastors in doing everything to ensure that peace prevails.”

It added that the Pope, in agreement with the Patriarch, said that “The church must not use the language of politics, but the language of Jesus.”

Las Vegas News Magazine

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