Pope Francis has criticized Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin as the number of casualties in Ukraine continues to rise.
Pope Francis during his Angelus address at the Vatican, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine as his point of focus, said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is ‘not a military operation, but a war sowing destruction, death’.
The Pope said that the Vatican has sent two cardinals to Ukraine to assist humanitarian efforts and is willing to do “everything” it can for peace in Ukraine.
“This is only as a sign of the presence of the Pope but of all people who want to say ‘war is madness, please stop, look at this cruelty!
“Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine. This is not just a military operation but a war which is sowing death, destruction and misery.”
The Pope called for a “return to respecting international law” and urged that evacuation corridors be opened so civilians can escape the conflict.
The first Sunday of Lent, at the Vatican in the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, had thousands of people holding Ukrainian flags with messages of solidarity with the country under attack.
“True happiness and freedom don’t lie in possessing, but in sharing, not taking advantage of others but in loving them, not in the obsession of power, but in the joy of service.
“We must be vigilant because they often present themselves under an apparent form of good. In fact, the devil, who is cunning, always uses deception and knows how to disguise himself with sacred, apparently religious motives.
“Let’s take our time for silence and prayer, during which we can stop and look at what is stirring in our hearts…” he said.
“Placing ourselves before the Word of God in prayer, so that a positive fight against the evil that enslaves us, a fight for freedom, may take place within us,” Pope Francis prayed.
Meanwhile, Ukraine and Russia are expected to meet for the third round of negotiations, which both sides had said could take place on Monday.
The two delegations last met in the Brest region in western Belarus for two rounds of peace talks and agreed to have humanitarian corridors in place in the embattled cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha to facilitate the evacuation of civilians.