Pope Francis did not mince words last Sunday with his appeal for an immediate end to the war in Ukraine.
It was not his first time calling for an end to the fighting that began with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion in February of neighboring Ukraine. But it was the first time Francis called out Putin specifically, beseeching him to “stop this spiral of violence and death.”
The pope also urged Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to be open to any serious proposal for peace, and he called on world leaders to do everything in their power to bring an end to the bloody conflict.
Departing from his usual Angelus reflections on the day’s gospel reading, the pope delivered his strong message on Ukraine from the balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square amid signs that the conflict was escalating, and as world leaders had gathered in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
We pray that those in a position to act in this crisis will heed the pope’s words and move toward ending the fighting.
Pope Francis is right on target. We support his goals without reservation.
This inconceivable and unprovoked war has already caused senseless devastation and death among Ukraine civilians caught in its crosshairs as well as military personnel on both sides. It has disrupted the food and energy supplies for much of the world, thereby straining economic systems everywhere as countries were still recovering from the Covid pandemic, and has displaced millions of people.
Most recently, Putin upped the stakes significantly by announcing Russia was annexing four occupied Ukrainian territories and hinting at the use of nuclear weapons—a development that would upend the nuclear deterrence strategies that have kept generations around the world safe from the bomb.
Nuclear escalation, the pope warned in his remarks to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square, would bring “uncontrollable and catastrophic consequences.”
It is “absurd,” the pope said, that “humanity is once again faced with the atomic threat.”
We’re proud of Pope Francis for taking this strong and principled stand, even if it doesn’t immediately move the needle. This war cannot be allowed to simmer and fall off the radar as our attention drifts to other things.
“How much blood still must flow before we understand that war is never a solution, [it is] only destruction,” the pope said.
He made his call for a ceasefire “in the name of God and in the name of the sense of humanity that dwells in every heart,” and prayed for a negotiated settlement, not one imposed by force.
A just solution, he said, must be “based on respect for the sacred value of human life, as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each country, and the rights of minorities and legitimate concerns.”
That’s a heavy lift, especially given the circumstances of this war, but it’s a goal worth pursuing even if it’s not yet in sight.