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Pope Francis condemns nuclear weapons as Putin threatens escalation in Ukraine

This generation is 'at a crossroads,' the pope said. It can choose to let the planet and humanity die, or seek the path of dialogue.

Pope Francis, seated center, attends a joint prayer at Rome's Colosseum, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, during the final day of the

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — At an interreligious event on Tuesday at Rome’s famed Colosseum, Pope Francis made an impassioned appeal for peace and the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons as the Russian war in Ukraine risks escalating to catastrophic heights.

“We are at a crossroads: We can be the generation that lets the planet and humanity die, that hoards and sells weapons in the illusion of saving only ourselves against others, or we can be the generation that creates new ways of living together, doesn’t invest in arms, abolishes war as an instrument for solving conflicts and halts the extraordinary exploitation of the planet’s resources,” the pope said.

Francis, seated in a wheelchair due to his chronic knee pain, spoke to a crowd gathered before the arches of the Colosseum, where religious and political representatives met on Tuesday (Oct. 25) to appeal for peace and interreligious dialogue.

“With firm conviction we say: No more war! Let’s halt every conflict,” the pope said. “War only leads to death and destruction. It’s a trip with no return where we are all losers.” Francis’ speech focused on the priority of dialogue over violence and underlined the importance of reenergizing discussions for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons.

The pope’s appeal takes place as Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens the use of nuclear weapons in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The Vatican and Pope Francis have attempted to mediate a peace between Ukraine and Russia, but while Vatican diplomats work tirelessly for a ceasefire and seek to maintain dialogue with the Kremlin, their efforts have so far yielded few practical results.

“Today, in fact, something we dreaded and hoped never to hear of again is threatened outright: the use of nuclear weapons, which even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki continued wrongly to be produced and tested,” Francis said.

Tuesday’s “The Cry for Peace,” an ecumenical event, was organized by the Catholic lay movement of Sant’Egidio, which works closely with the pope on matters of war, conflict, migrants and refugees.

Eminent religious representatives took part in the two-day conference and cosigned a “Rome Peace Appeal” at the Colosseum on Tuesday. Attending the event were religious leaders from all over the world, including the Patriarch Mar Awa III Royel of the Assyrian Church in Iraq, World Methodist Council President Jong Chun Park and the Orthodox Archbishop Dionysius John Kawak of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch.


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The prayers during the service were read by an evangelical Christian refugee from Cameroon whom the pope met while on the island of Cyprus. Attendants held banners with the word “peace” written in numerous languages, while a group of migrants and Edith Bruck, a Holocaust survivor, offered their witness for peace.

“This year our prayer has become a heartfelt plea, because today peace has been gravely violated, assaulted and trampled upon, and this in Europe, on the very continent that in the last century endured the horrors of two world wars,” the pope said.

Religions play a key role in building peace, the pope said, praising the many developments that have taken place in interreligious dialogue. “Peace is God’s gift, and we have implored that gift from him. Yet peace must be embraced and nurtured by us men and women, especially by those of us who are believers,” he added.

“Let us invest in every route for dialogue,” the pope said. “Peace is always possible! Never again war!”

This wasn’t the first time the Colosseum provided the backdrop for Pope Francis’ appeals for peace in Ukraine. Last April, during the celebrations leading up to Easter, the pope urged leaders “to pursue plans of peace” and “disarm the hand of brother raised against brother.”


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