Pope Francis directly referenced the war in Ukraine in his Easter Sunday address, in what he called an “Easter of war,” but avoided mentioning Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Instead, he referred to the war in the passive tense, saying: “May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged.”
“Let there be a decision for peace. May there be an end to the flexing of muscles while people are suffering. Please, please, let us not get used to war,” Francis pleaded during his address in St. Peter’s Square, as thousands of people applauded, some holding Ukrainian flags. .
The pope has been criticized for avoiding directly saying that Russia invaded Ukraine and blaming the Russian president for the attack.
Francis spoke of the millions of refugees who fled Ukraine since Russia invaded on February 24. He spoke of the internally displaced persons, the elderly left to themselves, and, without explicitly naming a perpetrator, “the lives broken and the cities razed to the ground.”
The pope has previously called the invasion “sacrilegious” and blamed it on “some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, [who] is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that will either be shared or not be at all.”
On Sunday, the pope also called for peace between Palestinians and Israelis, as well as in other countries across the globe including Yemen, a country which he described as suffering “from a conflict forgotten by all,” and to “heal the wounds” of abuse of indigenous people in Canada.
However, the spotlight during Sunday’s address was on the crisis in Ukraine, with the head of the Catholic Church bringing up concerns over nuclear war.
“May [the leaders of nations] listen to that troubling question posed by scientists almost 70 years ago: ‘Shall we put an end to the human race, or shall mankind renounce war?’” he said, citing a 1955 declaration by scientists, dubbed the Russell-Einstein Manifesto.
The war in Ukraine has played into what was — and was not — said throughout the Easter celebrations.
Earlier this week, Ukrainians protested a Good Friday procession led by the pope in which a Ukrainian woman and a Russian woman carried a cross together. The two women, a Ukrainian nurse and a Russian nursing student, are friends, and the idea was to emphasize the need for people to come together to end conflict. However, the gesture was condemned by religious authorities in Ukraine as “inappropriate and ambiguous.”
In the end, while the procession took place, the meditation the two women had written was considerably shortened.