Pope Francis warns of nuclear war risk and appeals to Putin about Ukraine

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

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

It was the first time publicly that he cited Putin’s role in the war. The Pope also urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to “be open” to serious peace proposals.

Francis told the public gathered in St. Peter’s Square that he was abandoning his usual religious theme for his remarks on Sunday afternoon to concentrate his reflection on Ukraine.

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Pope Francis leaves after the midday Angelus prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square in the Vatican on Sunday, October 2, 2022.

Pope Francis leaves after the midday Angelus prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Sunday, October 2, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

“The way the war is going on in Ukraine has become so serious, devastating and threatening that it is of great concern,” Francis said.

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

“I strongly deplore the serious situation created in the last days, with further actions contrary to the principles of international law,” Francis said in a clear reference to Putin’s illegal annexation of a large area of ‚Äč‚Äčeastern Ukraine. “It actually increases the risk of a nuclear escalation, to the point where one fears uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences worldwide.”

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Pope Francis waves during the midday Angelus prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square in the Vatican on Sunday, October 2, 2022.

Pope Francis waves during the midday Angelus prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican on Sunday, October 2, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

“Rivers of blood and tears spilled in these months torment me,” the Pope said. “I am pained by the thousands of victims, especially among the children, and by so much destruction that leaves many individuals 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 had to protect his country from what he called “Nazi” elements in Ukraine.

“It is embarrassing that the world learns the geography of Ukraine through names like Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Zaporizhizhia and other places that have become places of indescribable suffering and fear,” Francis said.

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Pope Francis, second window from right, reads a message during the noon Angelus prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square in the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022.

Pope Francis, second window from right, reads a message during the noon Angelus prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022.
(AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

“And what to say about the fact that humanity is again facing the nuclear threat? It is absurd,” said Francis, who then called for an immediate ceasefire.

“My appeal is directed first and foremost to the President of the Russian Federation, imploring him to stop, also for the love of his people, this spiral of violence and death,” Francis said. “On the other hand, pained by the immense suffering of the Ukrainian people after the aggression suffered, I make an equally confident appeal to the President of Ukraine to be open to serious proposals for peace,” Francis said.

It is rare for the Pope to name leaders in his frequent appeals for an end to violent conflict. In doing so, Francis signaled his extreme concern over the worsening situation.

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A damaged building is seen amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Kharkiv, Ukraine March 14, 2022.

A damaged building is seen amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Kharkiv, Ukraine March 14, 2022.
(REUTERS/Oleksandr Lapshyn)

“Weapons must cease and conditions are sought to start negotiations that can lead to solutions that are not imposed by force, but agreed, just and stable,” Francis said. “And they will be if they are based on respect for the sacred value of human life as well as for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of any country, as well as the rights and legitimate concerns of minorities.”

Invoking the name of God and the “sense of humanity that dwells in every heart,” he renewed his many pleas for an immediate truce.

Without elaborating, Francis also called for “the use of all diplomatic instruments, including those that may not have been used so far, to end this enormous tragedy.”

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“The war itself is a mistake and a horror,” the Pope lamented.

Throughout the war, Francis has condemned the use of weapons. But recently he emphasized Ukraine’s right to defend itself against aggression. Logistical complications have frustrated his oft-stated hopes of making a pilgrimage to Ukraine to encourage peace efforts.

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