Pope Francis condemned the “horrific cruelties” against unarmed women and children in Bucha, Ukraine, on Wednesday, saying that the blood of innocent civilians “cries out to heaven” for an end to the atrocities of war.
“Recent news about the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, attest to new atrocities, such as the Bucha massacre, increasingly horrific cruelties carried out even against unarmed civilians, women and children,” Pope Francis said at the end of his general audience on April 6.
“They are victims whose innocent blood cries out to heaven and implores an end to this war. Let us silence the weapons, let us stop sowing death and destruction.”
The pope held up a blue and yellow flag which he said was brought to him from “the martyred city” of Bucha, Ukraine, at the end of his general audience on Wednesday morning.
Pope Francis then invited Ukrainian refugee children to join him up on the stage in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.
Explaining to the audience that these children had to flee the war, the pope said: “This is one of the fruits of war. Let’s not forget and let’s not forget the people of Ukraine.”
“It’s hard to be uprooted from your homeland because of a war,” the pope added.
The Ukrainian children gave the pope some drawings that they had made and the pope gave them some large chocolate Easter eggs.
Ukraine’s foreign minister accused Russian forces on April 3 of conducting a “deliberate massacre” of civilians in Bucha, a city northwest of the capital Kyiv.
News organizations reported that at least 20 bodies dressed in civilian clothing were found in a single street when Ukrainian forces retook the city following the withdrawal of Russian combatants.
“Bucha massacre was deliberate. Russians aim to eliminate as many Ukrainians as they can,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on his Twitter account, alongside photographs of dead bodies.
The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the images as a “punch to the gut,” while Germany’s Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said that “this terrible war crime cannot go unanswered.”
Russia’s Ministry of Defense dismissed the photographs and videos from Bucha as “the latest fake by the Kyiv regime,” insisting that local residents were not harmed by Russian troops who, it said, left the area on March 30.
At his general audience, the pope had strong words about the effectiveness of international organizations in bringing an end to the war in Ukraine.
“And, in the current war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the impotence of the organizations of the United Nations,” the pope said in Paul VI Hall.
The pope also had a special message for Polish pilgrims, expressing gratitude for their extraordinary welcome of the more than 2.4 million Ukrainian refugees who have fled to Poland since the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
“During this time of Lent, which prepares us for the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection, you have shown an extraordinary and exemplary generosity towards our Ukrainian brothers, for whom you have opened the hearts and doors of your homes,” Pope Francis said.
“May the Lord bless your homeland for this solidarity of yours and show you His Face.”