Pope Francis condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and expressed his solidarity with the country on Sunday.
“Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine,” he began his Angelus address. “It is not merely a military operation, but a war, which sows death, destruction, and misery.”
The 85-year-old pontiff spoke to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome following the Angelus, a Marian prayer, on March 6. The faithful gathered to pray with the pontiff, including many from Ukraine, who held up the blue and yellow flag of their country in the bright sunshine for all to see.
His words echoed those of Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the leader of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Two days after Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, on Feb. 26, Shevchuk quoted his predecessor, the late Cardinal Josyf Slipyj, as describing the “mountains of corpses and rivers of blood” after Ukraine fell under Soviet rule.
Pope Francis announced his desire to help the Ukrainian people achieve peace.
“The Holy See is ready to do everything, to put itself at the service of this peace,” he said, announcing that two cardinals recently traveled to Ukraine “to serve the people, to help.”
He named the two cardinals as papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski and Cardinal Michael Czerny, interim prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
“The presence of the two cardinals there is the presence not only of the pope, but of all the Christian people who want to get closer and say: ‘War is madness! Stop, please! Look at this cruelty!’” Pope Francis exclaimed.
He repeated his call from the previous week for humanitarian corridors to provide relief to Ukrainians.
“The number of victims is increasing, as are the people fleeing, especially mothers and children. The need for humanitarian assistance in that troubled country is growing dramatically by the hour,” he warned.
“I make a heartfelt appeal for humanitarian corridors to be genuinely secured, and for aid to be guaranteed and access facilitated to the besieged areas,” he added, “in order to offer vital relief to our brothers and sisters oppressed by bombs and fear.”
The pope thanked two specific groups of people aiding the Ukrainian people: those welcoming refugees and local journalists.
“I would also like to thank the journalists who put their lives at risk to provide information,” he expressed. “Thank you, brothers and sisters, for this service! A service that allows us to be close to the tragedy of that population and enables us to assess the cruelty of a war.”
While he did not name particular journalists or countries aiding refugees, Pope Francis has, in the past, thanked the Polish people for their generosity in greeting those fleeing from Ukraine.
Since the start of the invasion, Pope Francis has called for peace. He recently urged Catholics worldwide to pray and fast for Ukraine on Ash Wednesday, which marked the beginning of Lent on March 2.
On Feb. 25, he visited the Russian Embassy to the Holy See, located near the Vatican. Catholic author George Weigel told Catholic World Report that the pope spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the visit. That same day, he called Shevchuk to express his support for peace.
The following day, Pope Francis announced his sorrow at the situation in Ukraine in a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
At the Angelus, he renewed his call for the attacks to end.
“Above all, I implore that the armed attacks cease and that negotiation — and common sense — prevail. And that international law be respected once again!” he declared.
Acknowledging the flags in the square below him, he called on the faithful to pray with him another Marian prayer: the Hail Mary.
“Let us pray together, as brothers and sisters, to Our Lady, Queen of Ukraine,” he said.