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Pope Francis calls Ukrainian President Zelenskyy to express ‘profound pain’

It is Pope Francis' latest effort to promote dialogue as war rages in Ukraine.

Pope Francis delivers the Angelus noon prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. The Ukrainian Embassy to the Holy See says Pope Francis spoke by phone on Saturday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The embassy tweeted that “the Holy Father expressed his deepest pain for the tragic events that are taking place in our country.”(AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Pope Francis called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday to express his sadness and desire for peace as the conflict in Ukraine rages through the country’s borders and city streets.

In a tweet Saturday (Feb. 26), the Ukrainian embassy to the Holy See said during the phone call, Pope Francis voiced his “most profound pain for the tragic events unfolding in the country.”

Pope Francis’ phone call is the latest effort made by the Vatican to show support and mediate peace in Ukraine. On Friday, the pope rode in a white utilitarian car to visit the Russian embassy to the Holy See in Rome. During the meeting with Ambassador Aleksandr Avdeyev, the pope expressed his “concern over the war,” according to Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni.

In another tweet the same day, Zelenskyy thanked Pope Francis for his efforts to promote peace in Ukraine. “The Ukrainian people feel the spiritual support of His Holiness,” the tweet stated.

“In these days we’ve been shocked by something tragic: war,” Francis said in closing his prayer service on Sunday, adding that faithful have prayed for the conflict to be avoided. 

“Those who wage war forget humanity,” the pope continued. “They don’t consider people, don’t look at the concrete life of people, but place before everything partisan interests and power.”

Francis condemned the “diabolical and perverse logic of weapons,” which distance people from God’s will and from seeking peace. Civilians “are the true victims whose bodies pay for the follies of war,” he said. 

The pope urged faithful to continue praying for the end of the war in Ukraine and said his thoughts are with the elderly and the mothers fleeing war. Francis urged countries to establish safe humanitarian corridors to welcome refuges coming from Ukraine.

The pope and his No. 2 officer at the Vatican, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, made several appeals for peace in the days leading up to the conflict. On Wednesday (Feb.25), Francis condemned the “folly of war” and urged all parties involved in the conflict in Ukraine to make an examination of conscience.

Parolin in a statement on Thursday said “there is still time” for negotiations and good will and encouraged faithful to take part in the day of fasting and prayer for Ukraine, called for by Pope Francis on the upcoming Ash Wednesday (March 2).

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The majority of Ukrainian faithful are Orthodox, split between those who adhere to the Orthodox Church that reports to Moscow and the Ukraine Church loyal to Kyiv. Catholics, mostly part of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, make up less than 10% of the population.

Francis also called the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, promising to “do everything I can” to assist the embattled Ukrainians in the conflict.

“We survived another terrible night,” Shevchuk wrote in a statement on Sunday morning, “but after the night comes the day, the morning, after the darkness comes the light.” Russian planes have been bombing Kyiv where Shevchuk has decided to stay to be near his flock.

Because of the nationwide curfew, faithful will not be able to attend mass on Sunday, the archbishop said, adding that for this reason, the church will “go to them.”

“Our priests will go down into the cellars, descend into the air-raid shelters, and there celebrate the Divine Liturgy,” Shevchuk wrote. After praising the work of Ukrainian first responders, soldiers, priests and citizens, the archbishop said that “even after this terrible war there will be the victory of Ukraine. And this new day brings this victory nearer in an inexorable and constant way.”

RELATED: Let’s save Ukrainian lives

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