Pope Francis asked the faithful to celebrate their mothers in a special way on Sunday, for Mother’s Day, and urged continued prayers for peace in Ukraine.
“Let us affectionately remember our mothers — a round of applause for our mothers — even those who are no longer with us down here, but who live in our hearts,” he said during his Regina Caeli address. “Our prayer, our affection, and our best wishes for all our mothers.”
The 85-year-old pontiff spoke to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square in Rome following the Regina Caeli, a Marian prayer said during the Easter season, on May 8. Thousands of faithful brightened the cloudy day with their banners and flags as they gathered to pray with the pontiff.
During his address, Pope Francis also turned to Our Mother, Our Lady of Pompeii, to intervene in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Kneeling in spirit before the image of the Virgin, I entrust to her the ardent desire for peace of the many people in various parts of the world who suffer the senseless calamity of war,” he said. “In particular, I present the sufferings and tears of the Ukrainian people to the Holy Virgin.”
His comments come after he consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in March.
Speaking from an open window looking out to the square, the pontiff called on Catholics to pray the rosary for peace, as he did during the Regina Caeli last week.
“Before the madness of war, please, let us continue to pray the Rosary for peace each day,” he said. “And let us pray for the leaders of nations, so that they might not lose the ‘pulse of the people’ who want peace and who know well that weapons never achieve it, never.”
Pope Francis, an outspoken advocate for the Ukrainian people, recently expressed a desire to meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, if the Russian president is willing.
During his address, he greeted the Ukrainian refugees present, as well as the families hosting them. The United Nations estimates that nearly 6 million people have fled Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
The pontiff also asked for prayers for the victims of an explosion at a hotel in Havana, Cuba. According to a CNN report, at least 32 people have died and 19 more are missing after an explosion Friday at the Hotel Saratoga. Authorities say the explosion may have been due to a gas leak.
Along with Mother’s Day, Pope Francis recognized Sunday as the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
“May the Christian community on every continent pray to the Lord for the gift of vocations to the priesthood, to the consecrated life, to the choice of being a missionary, and to matrimony,” he said. “This is the day on which, because of our baptism, we all feel called to follow Jesus, to say yes to him, to imitate him so as to discover the joy of giving one’s life, of serving the Gospel joyfully and enthusiastically.”
He recognized one woman who lived out her vocation: Sister María Agustina Rivas Lopez. Pope Francis announced the beatification of the “heroic missionary” and martyr — perhaps better known as “Sister Aguchita” — on Saturday in San Ramon, Peru. A woman religious of the Congregation of our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, she died for her faith in 1990.
She “always remained near the poor, especially indigenous women and peasants, witnessing to the Gospel of justice and peace,” the pontiff remembered.