Pope Francis visited the Russian Embassy in the Holy See on Friday, making an unusually public gesture to express his “concern about the war” in Ukraine.
The Argentine pontiff, who cancelled a trip to Florence last Friday because of acute knee pain (gonalgia), stayed for more than half an hour, news website Vatican News reported.
He expressed his “concern about the war” to Russia's Ambassador to the Vatican Alexander Avdeev following the early morning invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on Thursday, a papal spokesman said.
The news was later confirmed by the Russian envoy, who told the media outlets in Moscow that the Pope expressed his concern above all for “children, the sick and all those who suffer.”
In a tweet sent in several languages, including Russian, the pope said that “every war is a shameful surrender.”
“Every war leaves the world worse off than it found it. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful surrender, a defeat in the face of the forces of evil,” Francis wrote, quoting a phrase from his latest encyclical Fratelli tutti, dedicated to fraternity.
The Buenos Aires-born pope, who on Wednesday called for “preserving the world from the madness of war," has issued appeals for peace and against war on numerous occasions and has so far avoided directly condemning the parties involved.
On Thursday, a few hours after the attack on Ukraine by Russian troops, the Vatican said there was “still room for negotiation ... to find a peaceful solution to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.”
"The tragic events everyone feared are unfortunately becoming reality, but there is still time for goodwill, there is still room for negotiation," Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's Secretary of State, said in a statement.
Some Italian editorialists have recalled Pope John XXIII's mediation 50 years ago in 1962, which helped defuse a third world war following the Cuban missile crisis that brought the United States and the then Soviet Union to the brink of confrontation.
by Kelly Velasquez, AFP