Pope Francis on Sunday called Russia’s “military operation” in Ukraine a “war” that is causing “death, destruction and misery,” and said he was sending two cardinals to Ukraine. Francis was earlier criticized for not directly blaming Russia and President Vladimir Putin for the bloodshed.
“In Ukraine rivers of blood and tears are flowing,” the Pontiff said during his Sunday address at St. Peter’s Square, Reuters reported. “This is not only a military operation but a war which is leading to death, destruction and misery,” Francis added, referring to Moscow’s description of the conflict as a military operation rather than a conventional “war.”
“War is madness; please stop, look at this cruelty!” he declared, telling the faithful that he was dispatching two cardinals to the war-torn country as a sign of “the presence of the Pope.”
Before the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, Francis called repeatedly for peace, but refused to publicly call out Russia as an aggressor. Likewise when fighting broke out earlier this month he stuck to the Vatican’s traditional neutrality, calling for the evacuation of civilians from combat zones, urging both Russia and Ukraine to negotiate, and offering his services as a mediator.
Francis has spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone, and last week met with Russia’s ambassador to the Holy See. However, a readout of the meeting simply said that Francis visited the ambassador to “express his concern about the war.”