Pope denounces madness of war that orphans Ukrainian and Russian children

A new heartfelt appeal by Francis at the general audience on the day that marks six months since the beginning of the conflict. A thought also for Darya Dugina, who died in the attack in Moscow, and for the victims of other wars including the Rohingya "who travel the world because of the injustice of being driven out of their land". Concluding the cycle of catechesis on old age, he spoke of preparing for "our destiny which is to rise again".

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Six months after the start of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Pope Francis has issued a new heartfelt plea for peace. "I renew the invitation to implore peace from the Lord for the beloved Ukrainian people who for six months have been suffering the horror of war," he said at the end of this morning's general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican.

"I hope that concrete steps will be taken to put an end to the war and avert the nuclear disaster in Zaporizhzhia."

The pontiff's thoughts then went to the prisoners, the children, the dead, the refugees, the wounded. "So many Ukrainian children and Russian children have become orphans: Their nationality doesn't matter, they have lost their father or mother, whether they are Russian or Ukrainian," stressed Francis, who once again described the war as "madness on all sides".

"No one involved in war can claim they are not deranged," he explained. "I think of the poor girl who was blown up by a bomb, that was under the seat of her car in Moscow," he added, referring to Darya Dugina, daughter of Alexander Dugin, an ideologue close to Putin, killed by an explosive device detonated in her father's car. "The innocent pay for war and those who make money from war, from the arms trade, are criminals who kill humanity," the pontiff denounced.

Francis then went on to recall other countries that have been at war for some time: Syria, Yemen, the Rohingya people, "who travel the world for the injustice of being driven out of their land".

"Today in a special way, we think of the six months since the beginning of the war, we think of Ukraine and Russia," the pope reiterated. "I have consecrated both countries to the immaculate heart of Mary: may She, Mother, see these countries and bring us peace. We need peace'.

In today's audience Pope Francis concluded the long cycle of catechesis on Old Age, dwelling on the theme: "The Pains of Creation. The history of the creature as a mystery of gestation". "We recently celebrated the Assumption into heaven of the Mother of Jesus," said the pontiff.

"This mystery illuminates the fulfilment of the grace that shaped Mary's destiny, and it also illuminates our destination: Heaven. While Western iconography depicts the Assumpted Virgin as elevated upwards enveloped in glorious light, in the East she is depicted lying dormant, surrounded by the Apostles in prayer. Francis wished to reflect on the relationship of this singular 'assumption' with the death and resurrection of her Son, 'who opens the way to the generation of life for all of us'. In the divine act of Mary's reunion with the Risen Christ, in fact, the corporal assumption of the life of God is anticipated."

Pope Francis explained that the destiny of the resurrection that concerns us all is thus anticipated: Christ rose first "so that our destiny, which is to rise again, might also be clear".

"We could say, following Jesus' words to Nicodemus, that it is a bit like a second birth," continued the pontiff. "If the first was a birth on earth, this second is the birth in heaven. The Apostle Paul in Rom 8:22 speaks, in fact, of the birth pangs, which will bring man to be born into the Kingdom of God, remaining the same as he was on this earth. For even Jesus, by rising, does not lose His humanity, His experience, nor even His corporeity, "for without it He would no longer be Him", as witnessed by the disciples of Emmaus.

"We cannot imagine this transfiguration of our mortal corporeity, but we are certain that it will keep our faces recognisable and will allow us to remain human in the heaven of God," the pontiff said. "It will allow us to participate, with sublime emotion, in the infinite and happy exuberance of God's creative act."

Francis urged the faithful to take  the Gospel words about the Kingdom, described by Jesus as a wedding meal, like a party with friends seriously.  In old age we must then learn the importance of the small gestures and details of daily life, such as a caress, a smile, a sudden joy.

"This wisdom of old age is the place of our gestation, which illuminates the lives of children, young people, adults, the entire community," the pope concluded. "We old people should be this: light for the world. The pontiff said that the best of life is yet to be seen: 'We hope for this fullness of life when the Lord calls us. Passing through that door gives some fear, but there is the hand of the Lord that always leads you. He is waiting for us, just a passage and then the feast".