- Pope says annexation risks nuclear escalation
- Says he was afflicted by “rivers of blood and tears.”
- Most direct appeal to Putin since February’s invasion
- A Vatican official compared it to days of the Cuban Missile Crisis
VATICAN CITY, Oct 2 (Portal) – Pope Francis asked Russian President Vladimir Putin directly for the first time to stop the “spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine, saying on Sunday the crisis was a nuclear escalation with uncontrollable risk global consequences.
In an address dedicated to Ukraine to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, Francis also condemned Putin’s recent annexation of parts of Ukraine as illegal under international law. He urged Putin to think of his own people in the event of an escalation.
A Vatican official said the impassioned address was so somber that it resembled a radio appeal for peace by Pope John XXIII. remembered 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 caused, made such a direct personal appeal to Putin.
Francis said he was swept by “rivers of blood and tears shed these months” and urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to be open to any “serious peace proposal”.
He urged an end to the conflict “in the name of God” and said it was “absurd” that the world was risking a nuclear conflict.
“My appeal goes first and foremost to the President of the Russian Federation and asks him to stop this spiral of violence and death, also out of love for his own people,” Francis said.
“On the other hand, tormented by the tremendous suffering of the Ukrainian people after the aggression endured, I make an equally hopeful appeal to the President of Ukraine to be open to a serious peace proposal,” he said.
Francis later tweeted both appeals to the two leaders in Russian and Ukrainian.
Two days after Putin announced the annexation of nearly a fifth of Ukraine and placed the regions under Russia’s nuclear umbrella, Francis also stressed all countries’ right to “sovereign and territorial integrity.”
Kyiv and its Western allies have condemned Putin’s annexations as illegal, and Zelenskyy said his forces would continue their fight to retake all Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.
Ukraine on Sunday claimed full control of Lyman’s eastern logistics hub, Kiev’s most significant battlefield gain in weeks.
“I deeply regret the serious situation that has been created in recent days, with more and more acts contrary to the principles of international law,” he said, clearly referring to the annexation.
“This actually increases the risk of nuclear escalation to the point where there are fears of uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences on a global scale,” he said.
Regarding ethnic Russians living in Ukraine, Pope Francis said there is also a need to respect “the rights of minorities and (their) legitimate concerns.”
Francis said it was “agonizing” that the world was learning about Ukrainian geography through names of places like Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izium, Zaporizhzhia and other places where people had suffered “undescribable suffering and fear.”
Reporting by Philip Pullella Editing by Gareth Jones and Raissa Kasolowsky
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