The Pope has dedicated his message on Easter Sunday, one of the most important celebrations for Christians, to the conflict in Ukraine. In a politically charged speech, as is customary on this holiday, Francis called for peace for the “martyred Ukraine, so harshly tested by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it has been dragged”. Before thousands of faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, he demanded that “they stop making shows of force while people suffer” and asked: “Please, let’s not get used to war, let’s all commit ourselves to asking for peace with powerful voice, from the balconies and in the streets”.
Francis has addressed those responsible for nations, and has demanded that they “listen to the cry of peace of the people” and has cited “that disturbing question” that the philosopher Bertrand Russell and the scientist Albert Russell raised in 1955 in the midst of the Cold War. Einstein, followed by other eminent scientists and intellectuals, on the threat of the proliferation of nuclear weapons; “Are we going to put an end to the human race; Or should humanity renounce war?
“We have seen too much blood, too much violence (…). May a new dawn of hope soon dawn on this terrible night of suffering and death”, the Pope stressed. And he has remembered the numerous Ukrainian victims, the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, the divided families, the elderly who have been left alone, the shattered lives and the devastated cities. “We have spent two years of a pandemic, which have left deep marks. It seemed that the time had come to walk out of the tunnel together, hand in hand, gathering strength and resources. And, instead, we are showing that we still have the spirit of Cain in us, who looks at Abel not as a brother, but as a rival, and thinks about how to eliminate him ”, he has launched.
Several analysts point out that the Russian offensive on Ukraine is marking a change in the Vatican’s political strategy, until now marked by multilateralism. While in the first week of the invasion the Pope maintained a certain equidistance, trying to adopt a mediation role between both parties in the conflict, the tone of the Vatican has become much more severe later and the position taken has been clear. On March 6, Francis described the situation as a war and not a “special military operation,” according to Russian terminology. Two weeks later, he called the conflict “aggression” and stressed that the Russians had invaded sovereign territory. On April 2 and 3, on a visit to Malta, he strongly condemned the Russian attack: “And while once again some powerful person, sadly locked in the anachronistic pretensions of nationalist interests, provokes and foments conflicts, ordinary people realize the need to build a future that will either be together, or it will not be”. The Pope has even recently condemned the inaction of the United Nations as he displayed a Ukrainian flag from Bucha, unusual for a pontiff so far, to denounce the massacre perpetrated by the Russians in that city.
The change of tone is evident with respect to the one used in the past on Russia’s foreign wars, in particular that of Syria, where the pontiff assumed the position of multilateralism and mediation. In 2013, Francis wrote a letter to President Vladimir Putin in which he urged world leaders to seek a peaceful solution to the conflict. Following the call, the Russian leader wrote an opinion piece in the New York Timesin which he asked the United States for greater cooperation in the conflict in Syria, respecting international law and indirectly affirming the need for a Russian role in the region.
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In his Easter message this year, before imparting the Urbi et Orbi blessing to the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican, Francis also recalled the war in Syria and other open confrontations in other parts of the world, such as The Middle East, “torn for years by divisions and conflicts”. He has called for peace for Jerusalem and “peace for those who love her, Christians, Jews and Muslims.” “That the Israelis, the Palestinians and all the inhabitants of the Holy City, together with the pilgrims, may experience the beauty of peace, live in brotherhood and freely access the Holy Places, mutually respecting the rights of each one”, the pontiff cried out.
He has also demanded peace and reconciliation in the peoples of Lebanon, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, “who suffer from a conflict forgotten by all with incessant victims”. In addition, Francis recalled Myanmar, “where a dramatic scenario of hatred and violence continues” after the military coup, and Afghanistan, “where dangerous social tensions cannot be calmed, and a dramatic humanitarian crisis is tormenting the population. ”. He also mentioned the conflicts that are ravaging the African continent, such as those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the terrorist attacks in the Sahel zone or the situation in Ethiopia, “afflicted by a serious humanitarian crisis”.
Francis also referred to Latin America, “which in these difficult times of pandemic, has seen its social conditions worsen, in some cases, also aggravated by cases of crime, violence, corruption and drug trafficking.” And he mentioned the path of reconciliation that the Canadian Catholic Church is following with indigenous peoples, after the discovery of hundreds of bodies and unmarked graves in two former religious boarding schools for indigenous children.