ROME — Ukraine weighed heavily on Pope Francis’ heart on Sunday as he delivered the annual “Urbi et Orbi” (“To the city and the world”) message in St. Peter’s Square, in which he called for peace on what he was describing. year as an “Easter of war”.
Francis, who pleaded a week ago for an Easter truce in Ukraine, addressed tens of thousands of worshippers. It was a far cry from the few hundred who attended the celebration last year, which was restricted due to the pandemic.
“We’ve only seen too much blood, too much violence,” Francis said. “Our hearts too were filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters had to lock themselves in to be safe from the bombings.” Instead of learning the lessons of the heavy toll taken by the pandemic and emerging from it with stronger solidarity, rivalry prevailed, he said.
He also called on world leaders to bear in mind a troubling question scientists posed almost 70 years ago when they raised the specter of nuclear annihilation.
“Are we going to end the human race, or should humanity give up war?” asked Francis, citing the so-called Russell-Einstein Manifesto, published by philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1955 and signed by intellectuals and scientists including Albert Einstein.
Yet the Easter message was a message of peace, he said. Urbi et Orbi traditionally presents a state of global conflict and Francis has called for peace in the wars of Yemen, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.
But the war in Ukraine weighed heavily. It is a country “severely tried by the violence and the destruction of the cruel and senseless war in which it was dragged”, declared François to the applause of the place. “In this terrible night of suffering and death, may soon appear a new dawn of hope”, and that negotiations lead to peace, he added, urging everyone to cry out for peace “from our balconies and on our streets” and to world leaders to heed these calls.
In his heart, Francis said, he carried “the many Ukrainian victims, the millions of refugees and internally displaced people, the families divided, the elderly left to fend for themselves, the broken lives and the cities shaved”. He thanked the families and communities that had welcomed these refugees as well as migrants from different places into their homes.
“Every war brings consequences in its wake that affect the entire human family: from grief and mourning to the tragedy of refugees, to economic and food crisis, the signs of which we are already seeing,” Francis said.
“In the face of the lingering signs of war, as well as the many painful setbacks in life, Jesus Christ, victor over sin, fear and death, exhorts us not to give in to evil and violence. May we be won over by the peace of Christ. Peace is possible; peace is a duty; peace is everyone’s primary responsibility.