Pope Francis called for peace in Ukraine in an Easter address before a crowd of tens of thousands in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square, in the first such gathering to mark the holiday since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have seen all too much blood, all too much violence. Our hearts, too, have been filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away to be safe from bombing,” the Catholic church’s leader said in calling for a cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia. “May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace,” he said.
The pope also warned against going down a road that could produce nuclear war, quoting Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell’s 1955 manifesto against nuclear weapons: “Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?”
While Francis was speaking about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he continued to decline to call it an invasion or to condemn specific aggressors. Instead, he called for general peace and an end to violence, while alluding to Russia’s role by describing Ukraine as being “dragged” into a “sacrilege” without pegging Russia as the instigator.
The pope has been more explicit in criticizing how global powers treat refugees. On Friday, he told an Italian TV station that “the refugees are divided. First-class, second-class, by skin color, whether you come from a developed country or a non-developed one,” adding, “We are racists. And that’s bad.”
Since the start of the invasion, Ukrainian refugees have been welcomed into countries like Hungary, which had previously aggressively tamped down on refugees from Syria and elsewhere. While Francis praised countries for welcoming Ukrainians, he said he hoped the same support would be offered to refugees from other countries.