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Pope condemns Russia for ‘cruel and senseless’ invasion of Ukraine in sermon on ‘Easter of War’

Pope Francis referred to an “Easter of war” in his sermon on Sunday, as he implicitly criticised Russia for its “cruel and senseless” invasion of Ukraine.

The 85-year-old pontiff made his comments in his twice-yearly Urbi et Orbi (to the city and the world) address in front of around 50,000 people in St Peter’s Square after a long Mass.

It was the first Easter since 2019 that the public was allowed to attend following two years of Covid-induced restrictions.

Pope Francis dedicated much of the address, traditionally an overview of world conflicts, to Ukraine, comparing the shock of another war in Europe to the shock of the apostles who, the gospel says, saw the risen Jesus.

“Our eyes, too, are incredulous on this Easter of war. We have seen all too much blood, all too much violence. Our hearts, too, have been filled with fear and anguish, as so many of our brothers and sisters have had to lock themselves away in order to be safe from bombing,” he said.

Ukraine, he said, was “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,” Francis said, going on to thank those who had taken in refugees from Ukraine, most of whom have gone to Poland.

Thousands attend the Catholic Easter Sunday mass led by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican (AP)

 Provided by The Independent Thousands attend the Catholic Easter Sunday mass led by Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square at the Vatican (AP)

On Saturday night he attended but did not preside at an Easter vigil service, apparently to rest for Easter Sunday, the most important day in the Christian religious calendar.

“Please, let us not get used to war,” the Pope said, looking down on the square bedecked by tens of thousands of flowers donated by the Netherlands.

He also called for reconciliation among Israelis and Palestinians and among the people of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which he is due to visit in July.

Francis has previously rejected the terminology Moscow uses to describe the invasion of Ukraine – a “special military operation” – calling it a war instead.

In the past, he has used terms such as “unjustified aggression” and “invasion” while describing the eastern European conflict.

Earlier this month in Malta, Francis implicitly criticised Russian president Vladimir Putin over the invasion, saying a “potentate” was fomenting conflict for nationalist interests. 

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