VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday made an impassioned call for humanitarian corridors to help refugees leave Ukraine and said those who make war should not be deluded into thinking that God is on their side.
As some in his audience in St. Peter’s Square held large Ukrainian flags, Francis said his “heart is broken” and invited people to take part in an international day of prayer and fasting for peace which he has called for Ash Wednesday, March 2.
“Those who make war forget humanity. It does not come from the people,” he said from the window of the papal library overlooking the square.
“They don’t consider the everyday lives of people but put partisan interests before everything and trust in the diabolic and perverse logic of weapons, which is the furthest thing from God’s mind.”
Noting the Ukrainian flags below, he said “Praised be Jesus Christ” in Ukrainian.
Speaking in an impassioned voice, said he was moved by images of elderly people seeking refuge and mothers escaping with their children.
“They are brothers and sisters, for whom we must urgently open humanitarian corridors. They must be welcomed,” he said.
The U.N. refugee agency said on Sunday that some 368,000 people had fled abroad and that the number continued to rise.
“May the weapons fall silent. God is with the peacemakers, not with those who use violence … It is the people who are the real victims, who pay for the folly of war with their own skin.”
On Saturday, Francis called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and expressed his “most profound pain” for the country’s suffering.
The day before he made a surprise visit to the Russian embassy to relay his concern over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to Moscow’s ambassador, in an unprecedented departure from diplomatic protocol.
Francis, 85, was to have gone to Florence on Sunday to close a meeting of mayors and bishops from the Mediterranean area but stayed in the Vatican after a flare up of pain in his knee. He also will have to miss Ash Wednesday services in a Rome church.
—Reporting by Philip Pullella;Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Alison Williams