VATICAN — Pope Francis on Sunday appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for a ceasefire, urging him to “stop this spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine and condemning the “absurd” risk of an “uncontrollable” nuclear attack as tensions escalate. over the war.

Francis made his strongest plea regarding the seven-month-old conflict, which he condemned as “a mistake and a horror.”

It was the first time he publicly mentioned Putin’s role in the war. The pontiff also called on Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky to “be open” to serious peace proposals.

Francis told the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square that he was abandoning his usual religious theme in his Sunday luncheon to focus his reflections on Ukraine.

“The way the war is going on in Ukraine has become so serious, destructive and threatening that it causes great anxiety,” Frantishak said.

“In fact, this terrible, unimaginable wound of humanity, instead of shrinking, continues to bleed even more, threatening to widen,” the Pope said.

“I deeply regret the serious situation that has developed in recent days, with further actions that contradict the principles of international law,” Francis said, clearly referring to Putin’s illegal annexation of a large part of eastern Ukraine. “This essentially increases the risk of nuclear escalation, to the point of fear of uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences at the global level.”

“The rivers of blood and tears shed during these months torment me,” the Pope said. “I am pained by the thousands of victims, especially among children, and by so much destruction that leaves many people and families homeless and threatens vast territories with cold and hunger,” he said.

“Certain actions can never be justified, never,” the Pope said. He did not elaborate. But Putin sought to justify launching the invasion, saying he needed to defend his country from what he called “Nazi” elements in Ukraine.

“It’s a shame that the world knows the geography of Ukraine through such names as Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izyum, Zaporozhye and other places that have become places of indescribable suffering and fear,” Frantishak said.

“And what can we say about the fact that humanity is again faced with an atomic threat? This is absurd,” said Francis, who then called for an immediate ceasefire.

“My appeal is directed first of all to the President of the Russian Federation with a request to stop this spiral of violence and death, also for the sake of love for his people,” Francis said. the suffering of the Ukrainian people after the aggression, I appeal to the president of Ukraine with the same trusting appeal to be open to serious proposals for peace,” Francis said.

The pope rarely singles out leaders in his frequent calls to end violent conflict. In this way, Francis showed his extreme concern in connection with the deterioration of the situation.

Let the weapons stop and conditions be sought for the start of negotiations capable of leading to decisions not imposed by force, but coordinated, fair and stable, – Francis said. — And they will be so if they are based on respect for the sacred value of human life, as well as on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, as well as on minority rights and legitimate concerns.”

Citing the name of God and “the sense of humanity that lives in every heart,” he renewed his many pleas for an immediate ceasefire.

Without elaborating, Francis also called for “all diplomatic tools, including those that may not have been used so far, to put an end to this enormous tragedy.”

“War in itself is a mistake and a horror,” lamented the Pontiff.

Throughout the war, Francis condemned the use of arms. But recently he emphasized Ukraine’s right to defend itself against aggression. Logistical difficulties thwarted his oft-stated hope to make a pilgrimage to Ukraine to encourage peace efforts.

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