At the conclusion of Sunday’s Angelus prayers, the pontiff implored Mr. Putin: “In the name of God, I ask you: stop this massacre!”
Francis noted the devastation wreaked by Russian forces in the Ukrainian city of Mairupol, named for the Virgin Mary to whom his congregation had just petitioned in the Angelus prayers.
“We have just prayed to the Virgin Mary,” he said in remarks transcribed by the Vatican. “This weekend, the city that bears her name, Mariupol, has become a city martyred by the ruinous war that is devastating Ukraine. Faced with the barbarism of the killing of children, and of innocent and defenseless 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 join my voice to that of the common people, who implore an end to the war,” Francis said. “In the name of God, let the cries of those who suffer be heard and let the bombings and attacks cease! Let there be a real and decisive focus on negotiation, and let the humanitarian corridors be effective and safe.”
Francis also urged the world to welcome “the many refugees, in whom Christ is present, and to give thanks for the great network of solidarity that has formed” around the humanitarian crisis.
As of March 11, the United Nations estimates more than 2.6 million refugees and 1.85 million internally displaced persons were forced from their homes by the Russian attack.
Mr. Putin telephoned Francis on the pontiff’s 85th birthday on Dec. 17, when the Russian leader praised the Vatican’s work to improve relations between his country and the Roman Catholic church, The Associated Press reported.