Pope kisses Ukrainian flag and condemns Bucha mass killings

Pope Francis holds the Ukrainian flag that was sent to him from the town of Bucha during the weekly general audience at the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican on April 6. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

Pope Francis has condemned the killing of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha by the Russian military and renewed his call for an end to the war in Ukraine.

Speaking at his Wednesday general audience at the Vatican, the Pope appealed for an end to the “atrocities” seen in Bucha, where the bodies of civilians were found strewn across the streets.

“Even more horrendous cruelties are occurring, even against civilians, women and children. They are victims whose innocent blood cries out to heaven and implores,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied the alleged evidence atrocities, despite increasing suggesting otherwise. Responding to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s accusations at the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia called the claims against the Russian military “ungrounded.”

Pontiff joined by group of Ukrainian children refugees: The Pope proceeded to unfurl a Ukrainian flag, which he said “came from the martyred city of Bucha,” and kiss it. The move was received with wide applause from the audience.

Francis then invited a group of about a dozen Ukrainian children, who are now refugees in Italy, to come up on the stage with him.

“These children had to flee, and have come to a strange land. This is one of the fruits of war. Let us not forget them, and let us not forget the Ukrainian people,” he said.

Francis also strongly criticized failures by international organizations to bring an end to the war in Ukraine.

“After World War II, the attempt was made to lay the foundations of a new era of peace. But, unfortunately, the old story of competition between the greater powers went on. And, in the current war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the impotence of the International Organizations.”

Some background: While the Pope has not yet visited Ukraine during Russia’s invasion, he told on April 2 that a trip “is on the table.”

Francis’ comments at his general audience on Wednesday echoed his previous shows of support for Ukrainian refugees and calls for an end to the war.

On March 19, Francis visited 19 Ukrainian refugee children at the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital in Rome, Italy. They were receiving treatment for oncological and neurological diseases among others, as well as severe injuries from blasts, Vatican Press Director Matteo Bruni said at the time.

“Enough. Stop. Let the weapons fall silent. Negotiate seriously for peace,” Francis said at the end of March, during his weekly Angelus address.

“War cannot be something that is inevitable. We cannot get used to war,” he added.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo