Pope Francis issued an impassioned plea for peace in Ukraine on Sunday, condemning the “barbarism” taking place in the midst of the Russian invasion of the country, and pleading with both sides to end the violence.

In prepared remarks given after the Angelus, his weekly public address reflecting on the Sunday Gospel reading, the Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church lamented the continued humanitarian crisis, and called on the faithful to increase their prayers for peace.

“Brothers and sisters, we have just prayed to the Virgin Mary. This weekend, the city that bears her name, Mariupol, has become a city martyred by the ruinous war that is devastating Ukraine,” Francis said. “Faced with the barbarism of the killing of children, and of innocent and defenceless citizens, there are no strategic reasons that hold up: the only thing to be done is to cease the unacceptable armed aggression before the city is reduced to a cemetery.”

“With an aching heart I add my voice to that of the common people, who implore the end of the war,” the Roman Pontiff continued. “In the name of God, listen to the cry of those who suffer, and put an end to the bombings and the attacks! Let there be real and decisive focus on the negotiations, and let the humanitarian corridors be effective and safe. In the name of God, I ask you: stop this massacre!”

Francis also urged nations to accept the millions of refugees fleeing Ukraine, recognizing the presence of Christ in them, and asked the faithful to give thanks for the “great network of solidarity that has formed.” He also asked dioceses and religious communities around the world to increase their moments of prayer for peace. “God is only the God of peace, he is not the God of war, and those who support violence profane his name,” the pope said. He then offered a moment of silence for those affected by the crisis, and for the conversion of hearts to a “steadfast will for peace.”

According to Catholic News Agency, while most of Ukraine’s population are members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the country is home to more than 4.2 million Catholics, concentrated mainly in the western part of the country, though there are a number of communities in the territories of Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk. The vast majority, 3.6 million, or about 9% of the population of Ukraine, are members of the Byzantine Rite, which celebrates its liturgies in the same form as the Orthodox, the Divine Liturgy, but recognize the authority of the Pope as head of the Church. There are also about 371,000 Latin Rite Catholics, who celebrate according to the Roman Missal, and another 320,000 Armenian Catholics, who also follow the Byzantine Rite.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a significant humanitarian crisis. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as reported by the The Washington Post, as of Thursday, at least 549 civilians have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, while another 957 civilians have been injured. Russia has admitted to just 2,095 casualties, including 498 deaths and 1,597 wounded, the Post reported. Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky told The New York Times that at least 1,300 Ukranian soldiers have been killed. UNICEF also reported that at least 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine, including over 1 million children.

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