As the Russian attack on Ukraine entered its 67th day, Pope Francis called on Catholics around the world to pray the Rosary daily during the month of May for peace. He issued a new impassioned appeal to all parties “to avoid continued military and verbal escalation” and to “commit to the path of dialogue and peace”.
Greeting some 30,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday May 1, Pope Francis said: “Today we begin the month dedicated to the Mother of God. I would like to invite the faithful and all the communities to pray the Rosary every day during the month of May for peace.
He told them, “My thoughts go immediately to the city of Mariupol, the city of Mary, which was barbarously bombed and destroyed. When Russian President Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Mariupol had a population of over 400,000. While three-quarters of the population managed to flee, 100,000 remained and survived underground in what is now an almost totally devastated city after daily bombardment by Russian forces.
As the Russian attack on Ukraine entered its 67th day, Pope Francis called on Catholics around the world to pray the Rosary daily during the month of May for peace.
The mayor of Mariupol reports that 20,000 residents were killed in the shelling, and the only part of the southern port city that remains under Ukrainian control is the Azov steelworks, which is bombed daily by the Russians. Pope Francis spoke about it today and said: “Even today, from here, I renew the request that safe humanitarian corridors be made available to those trapped in the steelworks of this city” .
Ukrainian sources claim that there are around 1,000 civilians, including women and children, and around 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers (including some 600 wounded soldiers) inside the steel plant. Most of the civilians would be family members of the soldiers. Those inside the factory now lack food, water and medicine and live in inhumane conditions.
Pope Francis and UN Secretary General António Guterres, who recently visited Moscow, called on President Vladimir Putin to allow the evacuation of people inside the steelworks. On April 30, about 20 people, including women and children, managed to escape, apparently with the help of the United Nations and the Red Cross. The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that further evacuations are underway today, but offered few details so far.
“Today we begin the month dedicated to the Mother of God. I would like to invite the faithful and all the communities to pray the Rosary every day during the month of May for peace.
It also seems that the “in principle” agreement to an evacuation given by President Putin to the UN Secretary General only concerned civilians and not the military, and for this reason the wives of four of the soldiers came to Italy advocate for the inclusion of soldiers in the evacuation program.
Speaking more broadly about the war, to which there is no end in sight, Pope Francis said: “I suffer and I cry thinking of the suffering of the people of Ukraine, and in a particular way for the old people and children. At the start of the war, Ukraine, the second largest country in Europe after Russia, had a population of 44 million. Today, more than five million people have become refugees in neighboring countries and more than six million are internally displaced. Many towns and cities were reduced to rubble.
Pope Francis also drew the attention of his audience to “the terrible news” coming from Ukraine “of children expelled and deported”. On April 30, Russian Federation Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that “one million people” had been “evacuated” from Ukraine to Russia since February 24, when Russian forces entered the country. The Ukrainian authorities, on the other hand, accuse Russia of deporting them against their will, including a large number of children or minors, and accuse many orphaned Ukrainian children of being put up for adoption in Russia. Some of the deportees who managed to escape confirmed this news to the international media.
“I beg you, let’s not give in to the logic of violence, to the perverse spiral of weapons. May the path of dialogue and peace be taken!
“And as we witness a macabre regression of humanity,” Pope Francis said referring to these reports, “I wonder, with so many people in anguish, if peace is really sought; whether there is a desire to avoid continued military and verbal escalation; if everything is done to silence the guns.
He added: “Please let us not give in to the logic of violence, to the perverse spiral of weapons. May the path of dialogue and peace be taken! He then invited everyone to join him in silent prayer.
Aware that no less than seven journalists have already been killed during the war in Ukraine and that others have been injured, Pope Francis recalled that on May 3 we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, a day that has was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993.
“I pay tribute to the journalists who have paid with their lives for the service of this right,” the pope said. He recalled that 47 journalists had been killed and more than 350 imprisoned around the world last year. He addressed “a special thank you” to all those who “with courage, inform us of the wounds of humanity”.
Earlier, on March 6, Pope Francis expressed his appreciation and praise for the women and men journalists “who put their lives at risk” to inform the world about the war in Ukraine. “Thank you, brothers and sisters, for this service that allows us to be close to the drama of this population and allows us to assess the cruelty of war,” he said.