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Pope Francis condemns ‘massacre of Bucha’ and kisses Ukrainian flag

The Independent logo The Independent 4/6/2022 Philip Pullella

Pope Francis has condemned “the massacre of Bucha” and kissed a Ukrainian flag sent from the town where tied bodies shot at close range littered the streets after Russian troops withdrew and corpses poked out of a mass grave at a church.

The deaths in Bucha, outside Kyiv, have triggered a global outcry and pledges of further sanctions against Moscow from the west.

“Recent news from the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, brought new atrocities, such as the massacre of Bucha,” The Pope said at the end of his weekly audience in the Vatican’s auditorium.

“Stop this war! Let the weapons fall silent! Stop sowing death and destruction,” he said, decrying cruelty against civilians, defenceless women and children.

The Kremlin says allegations that Kremlin forces committed war crimes by executing civilians including in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating the Russian army.

The Pope said the darkened and stained Ukrainian flag, which had writing and symbols on it, was brought to him from Bucha on Tuesday.

“It comes from the war, precisely from that martyred city, Bucha,” he said, kissing it and holding it up for the audience of several thousand, which broke into applause.

The pontiff then asked a group of children war refugees who arrived on Tuesday from Ukraine to come up to him.

“These children had to flee in order to arrive in a safe land. This is the fruit of war. Let’s not forget them and let’s not forget the Ukrainian people,” he said, before giving each child a gift of a chocolate Easter egg.

 (EPA-EFE) © Provided by The Independent (EPA-EFE)

Speaking in the earlier part of his audience about the post-World War Two period, the Pope said: “In the war in Ukraine, we are witnessing the impotency of the United Nations”.

During a trip to Malta at the weekend, the pontiff said he was considering a trip to Kyiv and implicitly criticised Russian president Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine, saying a “potentate” was fomenting conflict for nationalist interests.

The Pope has only mentioned Russia specifically in prayers, such as during a special global event for peace on 25 March, but he has referred to Russia by using terms such as invasion and aggression.

Reuters

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