Pope Francis for the first time directly begged Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the “spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine, saying on Sunday the crisis risked a nuclear escalation with uncontrollable global consequences.
In a speech dedicated to Ukraine and delivered to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, Francis also condemned Putin’s latest annexation of parts of Ukraine as contrary to international law. He urged Putin to think of his own people in the event of an escalation.
A Vatican official said the impassioned speech was so somber it was reminiscent of a radio peace appeal by Pope John XXIII in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis.
It was the first time Francis, who has often condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the death and destruction it has caused, made such a direct personal appeal to Putin.
Stating that he was tormented by “the rivers of blood and tears that have been shed in these months,” Francis also called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to be open to any “serious peace proposals.”
He made an urgent appeal “in the name of God” for an end to the conflict and said it is “absurd” for the world to risk nuclear conflict.
“My appeal is addressed above all to the President of the Russian Federation, begging him to stop this spiral of violence and death, even out of love for his own people,” Francis said.
“On the other hand, hurt by the enormous suffering of the Ukrainian population after the aggression suffered, I address an equally hopeful appeal to the president of Ukraine to open up to a serious peace proposal,” he said.