Talks on curbing Russia’s oil revenue freeze as European diplomats wrangle: Live updates
Pope Francis on Wednesday compared the war in Ukraine to the “terrible genocide of the Holodomor” of the 1930s, when Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s policies caused a devastating famine in Ukraine.
The pope’s comparison of Moscow’s attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine to Stalin’s decision to let millions in Ukraine starve is one of his strongest condemnations of the Russian invasion.
“We pray for peace in the world and for the end of all conflicts, with a special thought for the terrible suffering of the dear and martyred people of Ukraine,” Pope Francis said during his Sunday general audience in St. Peter’s Square. “And let’s imagine a war-torn Ukraine.”
The Pope then asked that people join Ukraine this Saturday in commemorating the “terrible genocide of the Holodomor, the extermination by famine of 1932-33 artificially caused by Stalin.”
“Let’s pray for the victims of this genocide and let’s pray for all Ukrainians, children, women and the elderly, babies who suffer the martyrdom of aggression today,” he said.
Ukrainian historians claim that Stalin, as the head of the Soviet Union, used the famine caused by the forced collectivization of farms by the Soviets to crush Ukraine’s aspirations for independence. The famine began in Kazakhstan and southern Russia, but was most devastating in Ukraine, where entire villages were left to starve.
The Pope has called Ukrainian war victims martyrs in previous comments, but the comparison to the Holodomor seemed to be his strongest yet.
In the early months of the conflict, Francis supported the Vatican’s long-standing policy of not taking sides, even as he lamented the violence, with the aim of facilitating a peace deal.
However, he has recently stepped up and sharpened his rhetoric. He called on the faithful to pray for the “tortured” Ukraine and begged Russian President Vladimir V. Putin to stop the “spiral of violence and death.”
The Pope has also often warned of the reckless risk of using nuclear weapons and the uncontrollable global consequences that would cause, a clear reference to Putin’s statements suggesting that the use of nuclear weapons is possible.
For months after the February 24 invasion, the pope appeared to be walking a fine line. He studiously avoided naming Mr. Putin, or even Russia itself, as the aggressoreven as he called for an end to the violence and raised his voice against “unacceptable armed aggression” and the “barbarity of killing children”.
His neutrality, however, drew criticism from Ukraine, especially when he said so Daria DuginaA 29-year-old Russian ultranationalist close to Putin who supported the invasion was killed in August. Francis called her “innocent” victim.
“The madness of war,” Francis said then. “Innocents pay for war — innocents! Let us reflect on this reality and say to each other: ‘War is madness’.”
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine invited the Vatican Ambassador to Ukraine to express “a deep disappointment.”
After that, Francis changed direction. on August 30, The Vatican said for the first time that Russia is the aggressor in the war, strongly condemning the invasion of Moscow.
“Regarding the large-scale war in Ukraine, initiated by the Russian Federation, the interventions of the Holy Father Pope Francis are clear and unequivocal in their condemnation as morally unjust, unacceptable, barbaric, senseless, disgusting and sacrilegious,” said the Vatican in a statement.
During the early months of the conflict, the pope also avoided criticism of the war’s main religious supporter and apologist, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. His attitude changed in May, when he warned Kirill not to “turn himself into Putin’s altar” and called on him to work in peace.
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