Pope Francis has implored Russian president Vladimir Putin to “stop this spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine, and denounced the “absurd” risk to humanity of catastrophic nuclear war as tensions escalate.
The pontiff made his strongest plea yet on the seven-month war as he addressed the public in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City. It was the first time in public that he cited Mr Putin’s leadership.
He also called on Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to “be open” to serious peace proposals.
And he exhorted the international community to “use all diplomatic instruments” to end this “huge tragedy” and “horror” of war.
“This terrible, inconceivable wound of humanity, instead of shrinking, continues to bleed even more, threatening to spread,” said Francis.
“That humanity again finds itself before the threat of atomic war is absurd.
“What more has to happen, how much more blood has to flow?” before the war ends, he asked.
The pope implored “the Russian Federation president, also for the love of his people, to stop this spiral of violence and death”.
He then urged Mr Zelenskiy to “be open to serious proposals to peace”, and called upon ”all protagonists of international life and political leaders with insistence to do all they can to put an end to the war”, avoiding “dangerous escalation”.
Francis called for the “recourse to all diplomatic instruments to end this huge tragedy”.
In his address he called war “a horror” and “madness”.
He expressed anguish that “the world is learning about the geography of Ukraine” through the names of its cities and towns, now associated with the death of civilians, including Bucha and Mariupol.
Throughout the war, he has denounced the recourse to arms and urged dialogue, but recently he has stressed Ukraine’s right to defend itself from aggression.