Aug. 24 (BP) — During his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis marked Ukrainian Independence Day by denouncing Russia’s ongoing war as “madness” and calling on Moscow to end the fighting.
Ukraine quietly marked Independence Day on Wednesday, the 31st anniversary after the country broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991. Ukrainian forces were on high alert across the country in anticipation of possible heightened Russian attacks to mark the occasion.
At the Vatican, the pontiff prayed for peace for “the beloved Ukrainian people,” who he said have been “suffering the horrors of war for six months now.”
The pope also acknowledged the death of Darya Dugina, a Russian activist and daughter of prominent Kremlin supporter Alexander Dugin who was killed by a car bomb near Moscow last week.
“The madness of war,” Francis said. “I think of that poor girl blown up by a bomb under her car seat in Moscow. The innocent pay for war, the innocent.
“Let us think about this reality and say to each other: war is madness.”
The pope added concern for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, which has been close to some of the fighting. Experts are concerned for the plant’s safety and say an accident there could create damage throughout Europe. The nuclear plant is the largest in Europe.
Pope Francis also focused on the Ukrainian children who have been killed and injured during the war in Ukraine. United Nations data say that almost 1,000 children have been killed or injured since the war began Feb. 24.
“I think of the children, so many dead, then so many refugees,” Francis said. “Here in Italy, there are so many, so many wounded, so many Ukrainian children and Russian children who have become orphans.
“I think of so much cruelty, so many innocents who are paying for madness, the madness of all sides, because war is madness and no one in war can say, ‘No, I am not mad,'” he added.
The pontiff prayed to the Immaculate Heart of Mary to “bring us peace. We need peace.”