Amid the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, Pope Francis on Sunday joined the chorus of voices condemning the Russian invasion. In his weekly address to crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City, the head of the Catholic church said, "In Ukraine, rivers of blood and tears are flowing. This is not only a military operation but a war which is leading to death, destruction and misery."
The Pope's strong words come days after churches in Poland - which has welcomed refugees fleeing bloodshed and violence in Ukraine - publicly condemned the invasion and urged the Russian Orthodox Church to use its influence with President Vladimir Putin to end the war.
"The time will come to settle these crimes, including before international courts," Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki of Poland wrote to Patriach Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church head last week, "... even if someone manages to avoid human justice, there is a tribunal (a divine reckoning) that cannot be avoided."
The archbishop's tone was significant because it contrasted sharply with the Catholic Church's position at the time.
The Holy See has called for a ceasefire and corridors to evacuate non-combatants, but the Pope had yet to publicly call out Moscow for initiating a military conflict that is leaving it increasingly isolated on the global stage.
The Vatican had also offered no comment on a Russian military strike at a functioning nuclear power plant in Ukraine on Friday that led to a fire and concerns of a Chernobyl-like disaster.
The Pope's silence also raised eyebrows because he has, in the past, declared that the mere possession of nuclear weapons is an immoral act.
Russia has the world's largest stockpile of nuclear arms - about 6,200 - and Putin has, as recently as December, indicated a willingness to deploy them.
Moscow last week placed its nuclear "deterrence forces" on high alert - an act that led to some panic around the world.
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