The Pope had just finished celebrating Easter Mass in the square, which was packed with worshipers for the holiday for the first time since the start of the pandemic in early 2020. Applause erupted from much of the crowd, estimated by the Vatican at 100,000 in the square and on a nearby avenue, when he mentioned Ukraine.
“Please, please, let’s not get used to war,” Francis pleaded, after denouncing “flexing muscles while people suffer.” Again, the Pope did not name Russian President Vladimir Putin for the decision to launch the invasion and attacks on Ukraine on February 24.
People’s hearts are filled with “fear and dread because so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves up to be protected from bombing,” the pope said.
“Let us all work to implore peace from our balconies and in our streets,” Francis said. “May the leaders of the nations hear the people’s plea for peace.”
In a clear reference to the threat of nuclear warfare, Francis quoted from a well-known 1955 statement: “‘Shall we end the human race, or will humanity renounce war?'”
He quoted from a manifesto written by philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Albert Einstein. The text of the manifesto, with a stark warning against the consequences of nuclear warfare, was issued a few months after Einstein’s death.
Meanwhile, the leader of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in Britain, called on Russia to declare a ceasefire and withdraw from Ukraine.
Noting that in the Eastern Orthodox Church, followed by many in Russia and Ukraine, Sunday marks the start of Holy Week — with Easter on April 24 — Welby urged Russia to withdraw from Ukraine and engage in talks.
Francis also drew attention to other wars in the speech known by the Latin name “Urbi et Orbi” – for the city and the world.
“May the conflict in Europe also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow, situations that affect too many parts of our world, situations that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget,” Francis said. .
Two days after the Palestinians and Israeli police clashed in Jerusalem, Francis prayed that “Israelis, Palestinians and all residents of the Holy City, along with pilgrims, enjoy the beauty of peace, of life in brotherhood and of access to holy places.” experience mutual respect. †
He called for peace and reconciliation for the peoples of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Libya.
Francis lamented Yemen, “which suffers from a conflict forgotten by all, with constant casualties.” He expressed hope that a recent ceasefire would give hope to the people of that country.
He also prayed that God would “make reconciliation for Myanmar, where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence continues,” and for Afghanistan, which is ravaged by a humanitarian crisis, including food shortages.
Francis denounced the exploitation of the African continent and “terrorist attacks – especially in the Sahel region”, as well as the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and the violence in Congo.
In Latin America, many have seen their plight worsen during the coronavirus pandemic, exacerbating social problems from corruption, violence and drug trafficking, the pope said.
But Francis found hope in the “open doors of all those families and communities that welcome migrants and refugees across Europe,” referring to the roughly 10 million people who have either fled Ukraine or are internally displaced by the war.
At the Polish border station of Medyka, a paramedic from Warsaw helped set up a traditional Easter breakfast of ham, cheese and Easter cookies for some of Ukraine’s newest refugees, most of whom have flocked to neighboring Poland.
“They have lost their house. They seek refuge in our country,” says volunteer Agnieszka Kuszaj. She hoped the meal would help them “forget about all the terrible things that happened.”
Maria Dontsova, 31, from Kharviv, the heavily bombed city in eastern Ukraine, said: “I wish peace to all families suffering in Ukraine during this amazing Easter holiday.” In English, she expressed the hope that the war “will end as soon as possible, and people will stop suffering, and we can prevent the war from spreading (out) to Europe”
Previously, the pope, who has a knee ligament problem, limped badly as he made his way to an altar set up in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. After Easter morning mass, Francis climbed into the white Popemobile to race across the square among the cheering ranks of the crowd.
In Spain, worshipers and secular enthusiasts flocked to Holy Week processions in large numbers for the first time since the start of the pandemic this week, after most health restrictions were lifted.
Jill Lawless in London, Joseph Wilson in Barcelona and Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Medyka, Poland contributed.