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Pope condemns Ukraine War in Easter message

Pope Francis has criticized the war in Ukraine as a "cruel and senseless" conflict. In his Easter "Urbi et Orbi" address he also called for reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians, and in other conflict zones.

Pope Francis waves from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis waves from the balcony overlooking St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis lamented what he called an "Easter of war" in his annual address on Sunday, and implicitly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While Francis has yet to publicly condemn the Russian leader by name, his denunciations of the war in Ukraine have grown stronger.

What did the pope say?

In his annual "Urbi et Orbi" address, the pontiff made an anguished appeal for peace and called and talked about the "troubling" risk of nuclear warfare.

"May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of this cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,'' Francis said from the central balcony of St. Peter's Square. 

The pope had earlier celebrated mass in the square, which was packed with worshipers for the Easter ceremony for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.

In a reference to the threat of nuclear warfare, the pope cited a declaration made by scientists in 1955.

"Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?" he said, quoting the Russell Einstein Manifesto.

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He called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and urged the world to remember other regions hit by conflict and poverty. Among them, he cited Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Libya as well as Yemen which, he said, "suffers from a conflict forgotten by all."

"May the conflict in Europe also make us more concerned about other situations of conflict, suffering and sorrow, situations that affect all too many areas of our world, situations that we cannot overlook and do not want to forget,'' the pope said.

Hopes of dialogue with Russian patriarch

While Francis has blasted the "potentate" for his "infantile and destructive aggression," in Ukraine, he has so far not named Putin in his criticism.

It is understood that Francis is seeking to keep open a dialogue with Russian Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Kirill.

Earlier this month, the pope said he was working on a possible meeting with Kirill, possibly at a location in the Middle East.

Kirill, a close ally of Putin, has sought to cast the war as a "metaphysical" battle with the West and urged supporters to rally against Moscow's "external and internal enemies."

He has insisted that Russians and Ukrainians are "one people," a notion shared by Putin.

Francis and Kirill met once before — at Havana airport in 2016 — in what was the first meeting between a pope and Russian patriarch in more than a millennium.

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rc/fb (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)