Pope Francis addressed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time on Sunday, “imploring” him to “stop the spiral of violence” in Ukraine, citing the risk of escalating the conflict on a global scale.
Before the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square, the pope addressed “the president of the Russian Federation, asking him to stop, also out of love for his people, this spiral of violence and death,” according to AFP.
It is the first time the pope has directly addressed the Russian president during a speech since the conflict began on Feb. 24. The pope also spoke for the first time about Moscow’s annexations of Ukrainian territory, deploring the “new actions contrary to the principles of international law.”
Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions on Friday, a decision that drew strong criticism from the international community.
“I deeply deplore the serious situation that has arisen in recent days (…) It increases the risk of nuclear escalation to fears of uncontrollable and catastrophic global consequences,” he said.
The Pontiff also launched “an equally candid appeal to the President of Ukraine to be open to serious proposals for peace.”
“It is upsetting that the world learns about the geography of Ukraine through names like Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izmir, Zaporozhye, and other places, which have become places of untold suffering and fear,” he said. “And what about the fact that mankind is again facing the atomic threat? It is absurd.”
Once again denouncing the “madness” and “horror” of war, Pope Francis insisted on “respect for the sacrosanct value of human life” and “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of every country.”
The Holy See has been trying since Feb. 24 to maintain a delicate diplomatic balance in its relationship with the two countries, with the pope condemning a “cruel and senseless” war while keeping open the possibility of dialogue with Moscow.