(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) –Pope Francis on Sunday deplored the “rivers of blood and tears” flowing in Ukraine, using his strongest language yet to criticize the war, though he stopped short of blaming Russia. He also said he had sent two Vatican cardinals to Ukraine as an expression of his concern and to provide assistance.
Speaking from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square following his recitation of the noon Angelus prayer, the pope described the Ukraine conflict as “not just a military operation, but a war, which sows death, destruction and misery.” His words stood in contrast to earlier language by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican secretary of state, who originally described the invasion last month as “the start of Russian military operations on Ukrainian territory.”
The pope, who has put a priority on good relations with the Russian Orthodox Church, which is closely allied with the Kremlin, has refrained from explicitly blaming Russia for the war. On Sunday he asked “that armed attacks cease and negotiation prevail, and common sense prevail as well. And that there be a return to respect for international law.”
The pope called for secure humanitarian corridors and thanked those who were welcoming refugees from Ukraine. He also thanked “the journalists who put their lives at risk to guarantee information…a service that allows us to be close to the drama of that population and allows us to evaluate the cruelty of a war.” Russia on Friday passed a law threatening prison time for anyone publishing what the government deems false information about the conflict, and authorities there have ordered the removal of media reports that describe Russia’s attack on Ukraine as an “assault, invasion or declaration of war.”
Pope Francis also said he had sent two Vatican cardinals to Ukraine: Polish Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, who oversees the pope’s personal charitable activities; and Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny, who heads the Vatican office for social justice issues. The pope didn’t offer details of their activities, or say where specifically in Ukraine they had gone, but said they had gone “to serve the people, to help.”
“The presence of the two cardinals there is the presence not only of the pope, but of all the Christian people who want to come closer and say: ‘War is madness! Stop, please! Look at this cruelty!’” the pope said.