International News

Pope Calls for Easter Truce in Ukraine, Condemns Civilian Massacres

By Elise Ann Allen

ROME (Crux) — At the start of Holy Week, Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for an immediate ceasefire to the war in Ukraine, saying Easter is a time to choose life over death.

Speaking to roughly 65,000 believers gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Palm Sunday Mass, which marked his first outdoor Mass since the coronavirus pandemic began, the pope noted that during the Annunciation passage of the Gospel, the Angel Gabriel tells Mary that “nothing is impossible for God.”

[Related: Pope Francis’ Full Homily on Palm Sunday]

“Nothing is impossible for God, not even to put an end to a war whose end is not in sight. A war that every day puts before our eyes brutal massacres and cruelty committed against unarmed civilians,” he said.

Though he did not specifically mention Ukraine or Russia, the war between the two nations is something the pope has often condemned in the nearly 50 days that have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Some 4.4 million refugees have already fled Ukraine while an estimated 6.5 million others have been internally displaced since the fighting began.

Rumors of war crimes committed against civilians have also emerged in cities recently liberated from Russian occupation, prompting Russia’s suspension from the United Nations’ Commission for Human Rights.

In his remarks Sunday, Pope Francis noted that the Catholic Church is observing the days leading up to Easter, saying, “we are preparing to celebrate the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ over sin and death.”

“Over sin and death, and not against someone and against someone else, but today there is war because you want to win like this in the way of the world,” he said, insisting that with war, there are “only losses.”

“Why not let Him win? Christ was brought to the Cross to free us from the dominion of evil; he died so that life, love, and peace may reign,” he said, and urged all those involved in the war to “put away your weapons.”

“Start an Easter truce, but do not reload your weapons and start fighting again, no!” he said, saying any agreement made must be “a truce to achieve peace, through real negotiations, also willing to make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

“What victory will be the one who plants a flag on a pile of rubble?” he asked, and urged believers to pray for this truce, saying, “Nothing is impossible for God.”